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Liberal MP for Winnipeg North (Manitoba)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 35.80% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Business of the House April 11th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day indeed, and I will be very brief.
We adjourned the House quickly yesterday upon hearing the very tragic news of Mr. Flaherty's passing. While I understand that we will be adjourning today's sitting in a few moments, I would like to ask for the unanimous consent for the following motion, which has been negotiated among the parties.
That, in relation to the Opposition motion in the name of Mr. Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor) debated Thursday, April 10, 2014, the question be deemed put and that, pursuant to Order made that day, the recorded division be held on Monday, April 28, 2014, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.
Business of Supply April 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is important that we get a reality check and get some clarity on what we are actually talking about this morning. When we talk about time allocation, what are we really talking about? It is a rule in the Standing Orders that allows the government, at times, to expedite legislation in somewhat of a timely fashion. That is the time allocation rule that we are talking about today in relation to the Canada Elections Act.
Here is the problem. This particular Conservative majority government uses time allocation as part of the normal process. It has absolutely no respect whatsoever for allowing debate on important pieces of legislation. Rather, it constantly brings in time allocation, and it does not matter what type of debate it is. Time allocation is meant to be a tool. The majority Conservative government abuses that tool, and by abusing it, it is abusing members of Parliament preventing them from communicating the concerns of their constituents on legislation that is so very important.
We need to recognize that the Canada Elections Act is like no other. It defines the rules that apply when we knock on doors and ask for votes, when we ask Canadians to get engaged and vote. This legislation should be designated such that time allocation cannot be applied to it. That is very important to recognize, because it is a fundamental pillar of our democracy. Even now, the government is forcing this legislation through and is using time allocation to do so.
Why is that a problem? It is because the government has no credible source outside of the Conservative Party that supports the legislation we are debating. The Chief Electoral Officer; the previous chief electoral officer; Sheila Fraser; the head of the commission, Mr. Côté; and 100-plus professors from coast to coast to coast in Canada do not support this legislation. Not one political party supports this legislation. The only one that we know is supporting this legislation is the Prime Minister himself, and through the PMO's office the mandate has gone out saying that every Conservative will support this legislation. They have no choice. If a Conservative member of Parliament wants to run as a Conservative in the next election, he or she has to support this legislation.
I say shame on the Prime Minister, shame on his office, shame on the Conservatives who are not prepared to stand up for democracy here in Canada.
Let us take a look at the minister responsible for democratic reform. What has he done lately? He made a verbal assault on the Chief Electoral Officer for doing what he is supposed to be doing. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform needs to apologize. He needs to stand in his place and say that he is sorry not only to the Chief Electoral Officer but to all Canadians for his inappropriate behaviour and the manner in which he is executing this bill through the House of Commons. It is wrong. It is a bad bill.
Yesterday the leader of the Liberal Party talked about allowing a free vote on this legislation. What was the response from the government? We know that the Prime Minister would never want a free vote. A free vote could ultimately embarrass him. After all, there might be some Conservative members who are prepared to put democracy ahead of their own political party and that party's best interests. Why will the Conservative Prime Minister not allow for a free vote on this legislation?
Mr. Speaker, if he believed in democracy, he should at the very least allow for a free vote. All we need to do is to look at the manner in which this legislation has been introduced and pushed through the House. It is being forced through, and we need to allow those Conservatives who have the integrity to stand in their place and say what is happening today with the elections act. It is not the fair elections act, it is the unfair elections act, and the Conservatives know it. This is a Conservative elections act.
However, we are appealing to those who believe in democracy more than the Conservative Party. We are asking them to look at what the motion is talking about today. We are asking them not to continue to force the bill through, but to vote in favour of the motion and allow the legislation to be debated thoroughly. It is a fundamental—
Petitions April 10th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I bring forward a petition in regard to Canada Post, signed by the residents of Winnipeg North.
The petitioners truly believe in Canada Post as a national corporation and are concerned that the federal government is looking at ways in which it can ultimately dismantle Canada Post.
The petitioners are calling on the Prime Minister to recognize that the Parliament of Canada should commit to maintaining and expanding the future role of Canada Post as a government corporation.
Tax Evasion April 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to address this particular motion. I would suggest that taxes are important to all people. At the end of the day, constituents want taxes that are fair and appropriate and that they get some sort of service in return for those taxes.
It frustrates a great deal of people when they hear stories of tax evasion, the ways in which people quite often take advantage of laws or look for loopholes within government laws and regulations in order to retain money that should go to Revenue Canada. It is important that we recognize there are different ways in which government generates the monies it requires to provide the different types of social programs and other resources for the different departments in order to function as a larger community. Even smaller communities need to feel comfortable in knowing that the services are meeting the needs of society.
When I think of the services that tax dollars fund, I think of social programs such as the pension programs, the guaranteed income supplement, the old age supplement, and the Canada pension plan. When I think of social programs, I think of health care services, something that Canadians are very passionate about and believe is money well spent in providing universal health care. All we need to do is get a better understanding of the Canada Health Act to have a good appreciation for the role that we here in Ottawa, as well as the provinces, play.
When we think of social services, we can look at issues surrounding employment insurance programs. We can talk about the infrastructure from coast to coast to coast that benefits society, whether it is the railways, highways, capital infrastructure of buildings, museums, non-profit housing, and the different types of programs provided by government. I am thinking of housing rehabilitation assistance types of programs, tax programs that encourage individual companies, or the training of individuals for jobs, and for education. The point is that the government spends annually a great deal of money, billions of dollars, and Canadians want value for the money being spent on those programs.
As part of spending, the resources, the taxes, have to be acquired to provide the different types of programs I have alluded to. That is done in many different ways. For example, there are direct taxes, income taxes, corporate taxes, and the monies generated through different fees and tariffs. The government adjusts the bottom line by making minor modifications. The government has a responsibility to ensure that the revenues collected are in the appropriate amounts to ultimately finance the many programs I referred to and to use the many ways in which it generates that revenue in order to justify its ultimate expenditures.
I would suggest that what often gets people emotionally in tune with issues of finances is that they hear examples of abuse or of corporations, individuals through corporations, or individuals alone who use those loopholes or foreign investment or offshore accounts. There is a multitude of different ways in which corporations will look at how they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This is what I would have liked to contribute in terms of the debate, that as we focus on one aspect of taxes, we need to recognize that it goes far beyond just foreign investments or how individuals use different mechanisms to avoid paying those taxes through other countries.
Some may have hard numbers as to the amount of money that is not paid in taxes because of rules or tax avoidance. Obviously, we are talking well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Most Canadians would be quite surprised at the degree to which money is never collected by Canada Revenue Agency. For that reason, when I look at the motion we are debating here today, I do believe there is more we can do as a legislative body to ensure that, where tax avoidance is taking place, in the many ways it occurs, it is brought to the Department of Finance with the expectation that the Minister of Finance will do what he or she can do to minimize that avoidance.
The government today has not really clamped down on that issue, and there has been a substantial cost to that. As we know, when going through the budgetary process, every dollar is an important dollar. When one overlooks the hundreds of millions of dollars that are not being collected because of avoidance, that is something that has to be addressed. There is a need for us to move forward to get a better understanding and appreciation. I would suggest that any movement in that direction is positive.
I would like to go further than just talking about direct avoidance, by suggesting that there is much more we can do in working with the different finance departments at the provincial level. The tax avoidance issue is very real and tangible, and it occurs at different levels of government also. Therefore even though this afternoon we are focusing on one aspect of tax avoidance, I would suggest that if we take a look at the broader picture, we see there is much more money we should be able to collect. The more money we can collect from those individuals who are trying to cheat the system, the less money we will have to collect overall, or the more money we are going to be able to allocate to the many different services, social programming, and infrastructure that are so critically important. Those are the reasons we ultimately need the funds and have those taxes and fines and other levies coming into government coffers.
Victims Bill of Rights Act April 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, if one were to canvass the constituents I represent in Winnipeg North and the vast majority of Canadians for their opinions on what would constitute an important issue in the crime and safety file, quite often what would be raised is the fact that we are not doing enough to prevent crimes from happening. If we did more of that, we would have fewer victims.
My question to the member is related to the impact of this bill on police forces. I met with police representatives of the City of Winnipeg Police Service just yesterday. One of the concerns is that police put a lot of time and effort into areas that have nothing to do with actual police work. For example, it might be in a hospital institution or sitting in a court.
Would this bill do anything related to assisting our police officers in preventing crimes in the first place? It seems to be a high priority. If the bill would not, can the member indicate what the minister has done to assist that particular file?
Democratic Reform April 9th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is not appropriate for the Minister of State for Democratic Reform to verbally assault the Chief Electoral Officer. That is wrong.
The minister owes not only the Chief Electoral Officer an apology; he owes Canadians an apology. I look to the Prime Minister to demonstrate leadership, and he should be asking his Minister of State for Democratic Reform to apologize to all Canadians and the Chief Electoral Officer.
My question is specific to the minister. Will he do the honourable thing, stand in his place, and say he is sorry to the Chief Electoral Officer today?
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on what the member was talking about regarding the magnitude of the budget bill itself. It is important that we recognize, and that we remind people, that since we have had the current majority government, there has been a change in attitude so that when a budget implementation bill is brought in, the Conservatives include changes to various other pieces of legislation. They use the budget bill to pass numerous changes to law here in Canada, many of which should have been stand-alone bills that would have, in essence, gone through the system of first reading, second reading, committees, and so forth.
What makes the matter even worse is that the Conservatives continue to use time allocation as the process. All of this takes away the rights of all members of Parliament to truly be able to stand in their place and provide the due diligence necessary for holding government accountable. The members of the current government have made a backward step in democracy.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, the member did a good job in summarizing some of the issues related to the city of Toronto.
Many of those same principles in terms of need are there throughout Canada. I was reflecting, as he was talking about Toronto, on some of the needs of my home city of Winnipeg. There is a huge demand for infrastructure and infrastructure renewal as we try to move more to rapid transit.
We have been fortunate in the sense that our city has been growing. We hope to be able to sustain that growth and help facilitate it. In order to prosper, quite often our cities need to be able to look to Ottawa to assist with infrastructure dollars. Quite frankly, we have billions of dollars of infrastructure debt across Canada. It is into the billions of dollars. City coffers do not have the resources to be able to meet that need, so they are dependent on infrastructure dollars.
I wonder if the member might want to comment with respect to the fact that this year's budgeted line of infrastructure dollars has decreased by 87% from last year's. That will have a significant impact on all of our cities, including his city of Toronto and my beloved city of Winnipeg.
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I always find it amazing when Conservatives stand up and talk about supporting health care, when in fact, we have had record highs in health care expenditures going to our provinces because of an agreement signed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin. It was a 10-year health care accord. That health care accord expired just a couple of weeks ago.
This is a very important issue for Canadians. They want the national government to have that sense of commitment. The current Prime Minister has never had a first ministerial conference to talk about issues that are important to Canadians, such as health care and the importance of the health care accord.
Why does the member believe that his government has not taken the time or demonstrated the leadership to renegotiate a health care accord that would take us through the next 10 years or so?
Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 April 8th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am not too sure exactly where the member gets her notes. I suspect it might be in part from the Prime Minister's Office, but there is no doubt she is definitely a cheerleader for the former minister of finance. This is the same minister of finance who took a Liberal multi-billion-dollar surplus and turned it into a deficit even before the recession came into being, the same minister of finance who took a healthy trade surplus and turned it into a trade deficit that cost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the province of Ontario.
My question for the member is this: why does she not recognize that the Conservative government, because of its policy of standing back and not doing anything to support our manufacturing industry, has played more of a negative role in the performance of Ontario than any other federal government in the last 50 years?