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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chair.

Last in Parliament April 2014, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Agincourt (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 45.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resignation of Member April 1st, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order. This will be the last time I rise to speak in the House. Effective immediately, I am tendering my resignation as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Agincourt.

It has been over 25 years since I walked into this place, and I still get goose bumps every time I walk in here. There was an article written in the Toronto Star on December 18, 1988 by Susan Kastner, which concluded:

The national news cameras caught [the member for Scarborough—Agincourt] strolling to the Senate ballot box to cast his vote for Speaker. The diamond-pattern red tie blazed and his face, as he took it all in, was the face of a fellow who was having the time of his life.

I have to admit that over those 25 years, I have had the time of my life.

This is a place where one can make a difference. I think I have made a difference. This has been possible with the continued support of my family.

The same article describes when I was sworn in for the first time:

Smoothing their taffeta and organza dresses, the four little girls spilled into the halls.

It was describing my four daughters, Emily, Penny, Joanna, and Gina on the occasion of my first swearing in ceremony.

My family has grown since then. Toula and I have another daughter, Dina, who is now 23. We have two son-in-laws, Mike and Jeremy, and a few waiting in the wings.

We hear about a lot of hanky-panky going on here. In the same article, I said:

You hear things about the Ottawa cocktail circuit. Me, I'm very, very close to my family. I'm proud to say I've been married 13 years. Never even looked at another woman....

I am proud to say that this has not changed. I am even more in love with my wife today than the first time I saw her 38 years ago, and I thank her, my daughters, my sons, and my mother. The article goes on:

As his son swore to honor the Queen, tears came into Kosta Karygiannis' eyes. Afterwards, he pressed his son to him hard, and kissed him on each cheek.

Unfortunately, my father passed away last year and we truly miss him. My mother is getting on in age. She will be 85 soon, and I need to spend more time with her.

Then there is my staff who have supported me over the years. On my current staff, Kathy Gooch, my executive assistant, has been with me for close to 21 years; Margot Doey-Vick, for ten years; and there are Nick Manta; Lori Sweetapple; Shirley He; Annie Zhou; Letitia Lee; Daron Mardirossian; and Debra Dorion.

There have been other staff who were with me for a long time. Here, the article continues:

Jim left Toronto at 2:30 in the morning, driving all the way with Ian Perkins, his executive assistant. They had to make an unexpected stop in Kemptville, because Perkins' '78 Mustang ran out of gas.

Ian Perkins was with me for 16 years; Nina Adamo, 16 years; and there are Robert Kernoghan; Anton Kanagasuntheri; Steve Chatzibasile and Aglaia Kalogeropoulos, now married to each other; Vicky Balogiannis; Zain Dossal; Frank Caligiuri; Laura Maria Nikolareizi; Demetre Dellis; Grace Miao; Mandy Lo; Tina Kapelos; Shana Ramsay; and many more who were summer students or interns. I thank them all.

Then there are the volunteers who helped me get elected and then re-elected time and time again. On May 2, 2011, election day, we had close to 1,000 volunteers, scrutineering, getting the vote out, calling voters to vote, and driving food to volunteers.

While, unfortunately, other Liberal ridings were going down, we were able to get the highest Liberal plurality west of the Maritimes.

I sincerely thank all my volunteers over the years and look forward to working with them very soon.

However, the people I want to thank the most are the constituents of Scarborough—Agincourt. They put their trust in me time and time again for eight continuous terms. I am proud to have served the people of Scarborough—Agincourt and hope to continue to serve them in the future in another capacity.

I am leaving this place to be closer to my family and spend time more time with them. Being here has not allowed me to pass by my mother's home every night and see her before I go home. I am looking forward to doing just that.

In the article I quoted earlier, I said:

Three weeks ago, the morning after I won my daughters said to me, 'Dad, now can you drive us to school?' Gosh, it hasn’t hit them yet, their dad isn’t gonna be able to drive them to school again for a long, long time. Oh, it’s gonna be tough. The first morning when the kids wake up and find daddy’s not there, and the wife reaches over in bed and finds that empty space....

Well, there will not be an empty space and maybe in the near future, God willing, I will be able to drive grandkids to school.

Then there is this place and the colleagues whom I started with and the colleagues who have moved on in private or public life. There has been the Liberal Party that, to me, is my political family. There have been nine leaders whom I have served under: the Rt. Hon. John Turner, the Hon. Herb Gray, the Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, the Hon. Bill Graham, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Michael Ignatieff, the Hon. Bob Rae, and the member for Papineau. There have been colleagues from the other parties for whom I have much respect and others with whom I have had a difference and I will remember.

I am sure that in the next election, coming in the near future, there will be a collegial fight, and in my heart and mind the Liberal Party will form the next government. I am entitled to my own opinion. I want to wish my Liberal colleagues good luck in the upcoming election. I look forward to working hard to return a Liberal as the member of Parliament for Scarborough—Agincourt and to see my party form the next government.

Over the years, I have served in many different positions in the House and on committees. I have worked and advocated for many communities and groups. I will continue to work with and advocate for rights and privileges in this country and around the world. I have travelled, advocating and watching democracy and human rights evolve around the world. I have led trade missions and spoken about Canada on four continents and made many friends with international leaders, members of legislative bodies, governors, first ministers, and prime ministers. I am humbled to call these people my friends. I will continue working with them for a better world.

Do not be surprised, Mr. Speaker, if you see me in the future in these halls advocating and fighting for the underdog. The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin wrote in a letter on November 22, 2013, to mark my 25th anniversary in the House, the following:

Since he was elected [he] has been a powerful advocate for his constituents who he loves and cares for as few other members of Parliament do. He built a legendary reputation in Ottawa, fighting for the most vulnerable among us. Reuniting families and combating injustice are in particular close to his heart. As Prime Minister, it was my pleasure to ask [him] to join the Privy Council and serve as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport where he worked hard to keep Canadians safer and the economy firing on all cylinders.

[He] can out campaign and out organize above anyone. He has built an impressive record of election victories over the years and has shared that expertise with grassroots Liberals in ridings across Canada. His strength and support have been invaluable to me and to the Liberal Party of Canada.

There are very few people who have the capability to organize and help others to get elected. Many people say I am the last samurai of our party.

I have made reference to working with my volunteers in the immediate future and continuing to serve the constituents of Scarborough—Agincourt. I will be running in the next municipal election for the position of councillor in the City of Toronto for Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt. The current councillor, whom I helped get elected and who has done tremendous work, Mike Del Grande, announced a few months ago that he will not be seeking re-election. I will continue working and fighting for the issues that are important to the people of Scarborough—Agincourt: new immigrants and providing settlement services for them; ensuring that our local hospital, Scarborough Grace, remains open and functions as a complete hospital; upgrading our public transit and bringing the subway to Scarborough and Sheppard Avenue; and ensuring that our neighbourhoods are safe places to live and raise our children.

I would like to thank all of the people across this country and in many places around the world whom I have worked with, helped, and from whom I have received help in return, who have made a difference in my life and my work here in the House of Commons.

As I depart this place, I would like to mention two people who are special to me, my political mentors Styli Pappas and Judi Longfield. I would like to thank my wife, who is here with me today. I would like to thank my staff. I would like to thank my family and my mother.

I say a special thank you to my political family, the Liberal Party, and the Liberal leader, the member for Papineau.

Greek Independence Day March 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this year Hellenes around the world celebrate the 193rd anniversary of the independence of Greece. Canadians of Greek descent mark this milestone by sharing their history and values with their fellow Canadians.

On this day in 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Monastery of Agia Lavra, in the Peloponnese, signalling the start of the revolution against the Turks.

Greeks of the Morea, and throughout the Ottoman Empire, fought under the motto “freedom or death” during the Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution. After a long and bloody struggle, independence from the Ottoman Empire was finally granted by the Treaty of Constantinople, in July 1832.

The anniversary of Greek Independence Day is a national holiday in Greece and falls on the same day of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, a day of religious significance in the Greek Orthodox calendar.

As we pay homage to those who have paid the ultimate price in this struggle, let us also remember and honour the valiant contributions of men and women everywhere who fight for freedom, justice, equality, and peace.

Zito Ellas. Long live Greece.

Committees of the House February 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have two points. Yesterday I might have used a word that was out of turn, and for that I want to apologize. I am referring to the word I used, which was “blackmail”. I hope that is accepted.

However, there is a more important issue we need to discuss today, and that is what is happening in Venezuela.

Wording has gone back and forth, and I believe that everyone is okay with it. If members are not, they can stand up and say differently.

The motion I put forward is as follows:

That the House express its deep concern at the escalation of violence in Venezuela; convey its condolences to the families of those killed or injured during the ongoing public protests; ask the Government of Canada to urge Venezuelan authorities to proactively de-escalate the conflict and protect the human rights and democratic freedoms of Venezuelan citizens; that the Maduro government release all those detained during the protests, that all government interference with the peaceful protesters should cease immediately and that those people who have perpetrated the violence should be brought to justice and bear the full weight of the law; encourage the Government of Canada to play a leading role in supporting a political dialogue in Venezuela that respects legitimate grievances and differences of opinion; and to call for an end to divisive rhetoric and actions that only delay and jeopardize the inclusive political solution that the Venezuelan people deserve.

Ukraine February 26th, 2014

Mr. Chair, there is a lot of work we have been doing in Ukraine. Every party has been very supportive of the work we have been doing.

The political bully, Yanukovych, has to be tamed down. There are other political bullies in this world, such as in Sri Lanka.

I do not mean to take away from the debate tonight, the interest that is there, and the work we still have to do. I know that the government is sending its members over to Ukraine. It is a real shame that the other parties were not invited to go along.

However, my question to the minister is about another part of the world. My question is about Venezuela. In Venezuela, something is happening that is just as bad as what is happening in Ukraine.

Would we take the appropriate steps, as we did and as we pushed for in Ukraine? The Canadian Ukrainians and Ukrainians around the world are grateful. Would we do the same thing in Venezuela? Will we bar officials of the Maduro regime from coming to Canada, and will the minister try to impose sanctions as well as travel bans on the people who are doing this in Caracas, Venezuela, right now?

Committees of the House February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, in reference to what the House leader from the NDP said, he should be the one who questions what happened. It was given 24 hours. They came back and forth. The basic stuff was here. They came back and forth and they even tried to blackmail us if we did not go their way. They are going to present—

Committees of the House February 26th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the three parties trying to grasp words to come up with a version of a motion on Venezuela that will satisfy everyone. However, I do not think there is going to be consensus. I am rising to ask for unanimous consent to move the following motion about what is happening in Venezuela. I hope that the rest of the members will agree and that we can move forward.

I move that the House condemn the brutal, repressive government measures toward peaceful civilian protesters in Venezuela and call on the government to inform President Nicolas Maduro that the people of Canada stand with Venezuelans in their right to peaceful protest; that the Maduro government release all those detained during the protests; and that all government interference with the peaceful protesters should cease immediately; that those people who perpetrated the violence should be brought to justice and bear the full weight of the law; and that in the event the government of Venezuela continues to suppress peaceful protest, the Government of Canada should examine further measures to express its displeasure with these actions.

I hope that everyone supports this motion as we move forward in order to address the situation in Venezuela.

Request for Emergency Debate February 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I am seeking unanimous consent that we in this House condemn what is going on in Venezuela, and that we ask the government to send a strong message to President Maduro that he should cease and desist and that all the people who have been doing this be brought to justice.

Request for Emergency Debate February 25th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am asking that you allow an emergency debate on the situation in Venezuela.

Since I rose yesterday with a similar request, there has been a growing number of protests in the cities across Venezuela against the government crackdown against peaceful protestors. This started on Tuesday, February 11, when a peaceful student protest became violent when government entities began shooting and hitting peaceful protesters. This resulted in six dead, including two Catholic priests, and many others being hurt. Hundreds have been arrested and imprisoned without due process; many have just gone missing.

These protests are the largest since the death of long-time leader Hugo Chavez nearly a year ago. These protests are sweeping Venezuela, rapidly expanding from the original student protests that began earlier this month into protests made up of a broader array of Venezuelans.

Reports are now coming out which support what the protesters have been saying, and they are requesting international help.

One report stated the following:

As dawn broke, the residents of a quiet neighbourhood here readied for battle. Some piled rocks to be used as projectiles. Others built barricades. A pair of teenagers made fire bombs as the adults looked on.

These were not your ordinary urban guerrillas. They included a manicurist, a medical supplies saleswoman, a schoolteacher, a businessman and a hardware store worker.

As the National Guard roared around the corner on motorcycles and in an armoured riot vehicle, the people in this tightly knit middle-class neighbourhood, who on any other Monday morning would have been heading to work or taking their children to school, rushed into the street, hurling rocks and shouting obscenities. The guardsmen responded with tear gas and shotgun fire, leaving a man bleeding in a doorway.

On Monday, residents in Caracas, the capital, and other Venezuelan cities, piled furniture, tree limbs, chain-link fences, sewer grates, and washing machines to block roads in a coordinated action against the government.

The president, Mr. Maduro, is struggling to contend with a deeply troubled economy and has taken a hard line on expressions of discontent, squeezing the news media, arresting a prominent opposition politician, and sending the National Guard into residential areas to quash the protests.

News channels, which are owned and managed by the government, have not been reporting the situation. The Colombian news channel NTN24, the only international broadcasting that is used, has been taken off the air in Venezuela by the government regulatory body, suppressing national laws and human rights.

Venezuelans are completely isolated and are relying on social media, which has been disrupted by slowing down the Internet, blocking images on Twitter, and even suspending the service.

The Venezuelan government has limited the access of international and non-governmental organizations to the country, obstructing their ability to record and denounce the constant violation of human rights.

Canadians of Venezuelan heritage are asking that we in this House stand in solidarity with the Venezuelans fighting for democracy.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking, on behalf of these Canadians, that you allow an emergency debate on this matter.

Business of the House February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

In view of what we just heard from the government side and the concerns raised about Ukraine, I would ask that we also do the same for Venezuela. Therefore, I would like to move the same motion that the House leader did, with different wording regarding Venezuela.

The situation there is just as critical, just as important, and just as deserving. Our discussion of Ukraine should also be for what is happening in Venezuela. The people in Ukraine are dying. The people in Venezuela are dying. It is a similar situation in different countries.

Request for Emergency Debate February 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, similarly, I am rising to ask for an emergency debate on the crisis in Venezuela.

Various cities in Venezuela have been undergoing peaceful student protests since Tuesday, February 11. These protests became violent when government entities began shooting and hitting peaceful protesters, resulting in six dead, and that number is growing. It includes two Catholic priests. Many others were hurt. Hundreds have been arrested and imprisoned without due process. Many have just gone missing.

News channels owned and managed by the government have not been reporting the situation. A Colombian news channel, NTN24, the only international channel broadcasting this news, has been taken off the air in Venezuela by the government regulatory body, violating national laws and human rights. Venezuelans are completely isolated and are relying on social media, which is being disrupted by slowing down the Internet, blocking images on Twitter, and even suspending the service. The Venezuelan government has limited the access of international and non-governmental organizations to the country, obstructing their ability to record and denounce the constant violations of human rights.

Canadians of Venezuelan heritage are asking that we in the House stand in solidarity with the Venezuelans fighting for democracy. Mr. Speaker, I urge you to allow this debate to take place.