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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was afghanistan.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Etobicoke—Lakeshore (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 35.10% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Speaker of the House of Commons March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness and emotion that I rise to pay tribute to you today. We are saying goodbye to a wonderful parliamentarian, the member for Kingston and the Islands, and a great Canadian who has left his mark on this institution, which we all hold so dear. We salute you.

You were elected Speaker by your colleagues four times, making you the longest-serving Speaker in the House and only the second one to have been chosen from the opposition benches. Ten deciding votes have been cast by Speakers of the House since 1867 and you have cast five of them, which is extraordinary.

You have been the voice of this House. You have inspired us—sometimes with kindness, sometimes with firmness, sometimes with great conviction and emotion—to better understand the rules governing this House and Canadian democracy. If only for that, the country owes you so very much.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, as chair of the procedure and House affairs committee, as Deputy Speaker, and now as Speaker, you have built a legacy that will outlast you and that will endure in the annals of this Parliament.

At the end of your tenure, we all regret, if I may add, that another great lover of parliamentary democracy and procedure, our friend and your friend, Jerry Yanover, is not here to celebrate with us your incredible achievement.

With your departure, Mr. Speaker, this place loses a faithful guardian of our best traditions. We also lose a fierce protector of its privileges. Few Canadians have done more to affirm the supremacy of Parliament. Three times in the last year, you have stood in this House to defend our democracy against the abuse of power. Your rulings are the consummation of a career spent in the service of our institutions and they will echo in the history of our Parliament. For your devotion to this place, you have our gratitude and our respect.

Today, the House stands poised to make history of its own and to make an important and historic choice. The irony is that if this House were to find the government in contempt, it would have one consequence, which all of us deeply regret: We would send a great Speaker into retirement.

So farewell, Mr. Speaker. This House will miss you and we will never forget you.

Ethics March 25th, 2011

How do you know?

Government Accountability March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, we welcome an encounter with Canadians. We welcome a debate with Canadians. We welcome the opportunity to take our choices to Canadians.

It is prisons or pensions. It is corporate tax breaks or child care spaces. It is fighter jets or family care. These are the choices that will face the Canadian people.

One choice will matter most of all: which government will Canadians trust with the democratic institutions of our country?

Government Accountability March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, that is completely absurd. I would never reject the results of a democratic election. I personally support the principles of democracy; they are the ones who are demonstrating contempt. It did not need to go this far. The Conservatives could have listened to families. The Conservatives could have listened to Parliament. They chose not to. Instead, they chose fighter jets, mega-jails and gifts to corporations. Instead of an election, the Prime Minister would rather—

Government Accountability March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, for the first time in Canadian history a government stands on the verge of being found in contempt by Parliament.

For four months the government has refused to tell Canadians the true cost of its jets, its jails, and its corporate tax giveaways. The Prime Minister, in effect, demanded a blank cheque from the House and this afternoon the House will give its answer.

How can Canadians trust a government that is so out of touch and so out of control?

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, my colleague and friend from Vancouver Quadra asks a question that essentially transports us out of the precincts of the House and asks what this means to ordinary Canadians, the families watching at home and people at work. This is a question that affects them directly.

Many Canadians enjoy the very special privilege of rich and lucky countries, of not having to think and worry about their democracy. They entrust its protection to their representatives. They do not think about whether their democracy is in danger. They do not look up from the more important things they have to do in their lives, such as getting the kids to hockey practice and to school, doing their jobs, being with their neighbours and friends.

However, in the deep background of their lives, there must always be a confidence that their democracy works and that it works for them, and that when members of the House ask a government questions about how taxpayer money is spent, they get an honest answer. That is the crux of our democratic system, that on behalf of the woman taking her son or daughter to hockey practice, on behalf of the man going to work in the mill, they can count on us in the House of Commons to ask the questions that those citizens need to know in order to hold our government accountable. When that government fails in this most elementary task of democratic freedom, it is the duty of the members of the House to bring the government down.

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his insightful remarks. He points out that we are here today because of a long pattern of abuse, not simply the withholding of documents on this occasion, which we have spent four long months in vain, seeking the documents we need to do our job, but there is a longer pattern of abuse that goes back to the shutting down of Parliament on two occasions.

When the Government of Canada was under pressure, facing just criticism from members of the House, it chose to prorogue. Canadians did not like that. It set the pattern of contempt, the pattern of disrespect, the pattern of abuse of our democracy that brings us to this place.

The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley asks our side what we can do about it. That is why we are here today, to present a motion before the House that holds the government in contempt. If we do not do this, if we allow the government to get away with this, we will endanger the democracy which is incarnated by this beautiful room.

We have to be absolutely clear on this.

What has to be done to put things right and have democracy respected? The motion moved by the Liberal Party of Canada, the official opposition, has to be supported and adopted, that is what.

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his public service on that committee, but I would draw to his attention a point in my speech indicating that the House asked for four months for the documents necessary for Parliament to make up its mind about the budget.

The member for Kitchener—Conestoga waves a binder in my face. Let me remind him that the answers we sought were not in those documents. We have been stonewalled for four months. The issue about who is to blame for contempt of Parliament lies squarely on the side of a government that when asked to provide the information necessary for the citizens of Canada to evaluate a budget, it stonewalled, objected, refused, and did not comply. This raises a fundamental issue of respect for parliamentary institutions.

The facts remain as I have stated. One cannot say that the government is in compliance when the binders do not provide the information required and when for four months, it gave us no answer at all.

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, before we start this debate, I have a few words for you. You are at the end of your term as Speaker of the House, and I would like to express how much fondness and respect we all have for you. Your rulings have left their mark on our country's history.

Mr. Speaker, you have taught us all, sometimes with a modest rebuke, sometimes with the sharp sting of focused argument, to understand, to respect and to cherish the rules of Canadian democracy, and for that your citizens will always hold you in highest honour.

This is a historic day in the life of Canadian democracy, the democracy that you, Mr. Speaker, have served so well. I have to inform the House that the official opposition has lost confidence in the government.

The government no longer has the confidence of the official opposition.

Our motion asks the House to agree with the finding in the 27th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented on March 21. This was a historic finding. It was the first time that a parliamentary committee has found the government in contempt.

Today, with this motion, we ask the House to do the same, to find the government in contempt and to withdraw the confidence of the House.

With this motion, we are calling on members of Parliament to condemn the government for its contempt of Parliament and to withdraw the confidence of the House. This is a historic day in the life of Canadian democracy, but it is also an opportunity for us to confirm our commitment to parliamentary democracy and its fundamental principles.

What principles are we talking about? That the government has the obligation to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.

The principle at stake in this debate goes to the heart of parliamentary democracy: the obligation of a government to provide members of this House with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.

We are the people's representatives. When the government spends money, the people have a right to know what it is to be spent on. Parliament does not issue blank cheques. For four months, the opposition has asked the government to tell the Canadian people the true cost of its budget plans. For four months, we demanded to know how much Canadian taxpayers were being asked to pay for fighter jets, prisons and corporate tax breaks. For four months. this House and the Canadian people were stonewalled by the government and they are being stonewalled still.

For four months, we have been trying to hold this government accountable. For four months, we demanded to know the real cost of the fighter jets, prisons and tax breaks for major corporations. For four months, we did not get a single answer, aside from the contempt and arrogance of this government. And today, still, we have no answers.

We were shocked, but we were not surprised. After all, this is the same government that shut down Parliament twice, the same government that was forced, by one of your rulings, to hand over documents to do with Afghan prisoners, and we are still waiting for those documents.

In the case of the Afghan documents, the government's excuse for withholding the truth was national security. In the case of the budget documents, it invented something about cabinet confidence, but actually it did not even bother with an excuse at all.

But you, Mr. Speaker, would have none of it. You, Mr. Speaker, held that the rules of our democracy require the government to answer the questions that Parliament wants answered. The matter was sent back to a committee for action and it came back with a finding of contempt. That is why we are where we are today. The House must decide whether the government has broken a basic rule of our democracy and therefore, whether it can remain in office.

For our part on this side of the House, there is no doubt. You, Mr. Speaker, have spoken, the committee has spoken, and now the House must speak with a clear voice. It must say that a government that breaks the rules and conceals facts from the Canadian people does not deserve to remain in office.

With one clear voice, the House must declare that a government that does not respect democracy cannot remain in power. We have had enough. If this vote results in an election, the Canadian people will have the opportunity to replace an arrogant government with one that respects democracy.

To those who say an election is unnecessary, we reply that we did not seek an election, but if we need one to replace a government that does not respect democracy with one that does, I cannot think of a more necessary election.

It is not just democracy that the House will be called upon to affirm this afternoon. The House should also affirm Canadians' hunger, nay their longing, for change. It is time to change Canada's direction. It is time to get us on the right path. After five years of Conservative government, it is time to say enough is enough. Enough of the politics of fear. Enough of the politics of division. Enough of the politics of personal destruction.

Enough is enough. We need to look at the government's priorities. It wants to spend 1,000 times more on fighter jets than on helping students in CEGEP and university. We reject the government's priorities. It is offering less to seniors for an entire year than what it spent on one day of the G20. We say no to this kind of waste. The government wants to spend 1,000 times more on prisons than on preventing youth crime. Again, we say no. This government's priorities are not in line with the priorities of Canadian families. We have had it. Enough is enough.

The priorities of the government laid bare in that thin gruel that we saw earlier this week reveal a government out of touch and out of control. There is no credible plan to tackle the deficit because there are no numbers any reasonable person can believe in. There is no vision of how to sustain our health care system. There is not a word about affordable housing, not a word about child care, and nothing for the pressing needs of Canadian families in poverty.

Instead, we get jets, jails and giveaways to oil companies, insurance companies, and banks that are doing just fine, thank you very much.

So we need a change. We need to focus scarce resources where they really matter: early learning and child care; college and university education for all, especially for aboriginal and immigrant Canadians; energy efficiency and green jobs; family care for our loved ones in the home, and security and dignity in retirement. We need all of this plus a clear plan to clean up our country's finances and get us back to balance without adding to the tax burden on Canadian families.

These are the priorities of our people. These are the needs that we must serve. These are the priorities at home. However, let us not forget the priorities abroad. We have so much ground to catch up. We have a government that has lost our place in the world and lost our place at the Security Council of the United Nations.

We need a government that restores our honour, our credit, and our prestige on the international stage, a government that understands the deep and committed internationalism that dwells in the hearts of all Canadian citizens.

We need a government for the people, a government that is accountable to the people and that serves the people and democracy.

I want to conclude by saying a few words about democracy. Some members of this government have been charged with electoral fraud. A member of the Prime Minister's inner circle is accused of influence peddling. Enough is enough. People are fed up.

I return to where I started, to democracy, to the abuse of power. We have a government whose most senior members stand accused of electoral fraud. We have a Prime Minister who appointed, as his top adviser, someone who served prison time for stealing money from his clients, someone who now faces accusations of influence peddling, and is under an RCMP investigation.

Canadians look at that picture and they say, “We have had enough”. This House has had enough, enough of the abuse of power and enough of the bad economic choices.

We have a government with unique distinctions. We have a government with the largest deficit in Canadian history. It is the highest spending government in Canadian history. It is the most wasteful government in Canadian history. Finally, it is the first government in Canadian history to face a vote of contempt in this House.

This is a government and a Prime Minister that is out of touch and is out of control. It is time for a change.

Mr. Speaker, I urge all of the members to support our motion.

Business of Supply March 25th, 2011

moved:

That the House agree with the finding of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that the government is in contempt of Parliament, which is unprecedented in Canadian parliamentary history, and consequently, the House has lost confidence in the government.