Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was budget.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Ottawa—Orléans (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2008, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Telecommunications Act February 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.

First, I would like to take a few seconds to thank the member for Burlington for her excellent work in the past and for taking up this issue on limiting telemarketing calls.

In 1994, the CRTC introduced regulations restricting unsolicited telemarketing. However, under these regulations, people who do not want to be disturbed by calls from companies that want to sell them something may have to register on hundreds of lists maintained by individual businesses.

This is surely not a workable system. The bill before us creates a better regulatory environment by providing the CRTC with the tools to create one national do not call list. In its telecom decision CRTC 2004-35, the CRTC recommended that it be provided with additional powers to establish a national do not call regime. In the interim it established new rules to govern telemarketing, rules that reinforce the existing regime.

The telemarketing industry itself took exception to the new rules to reinforce the existing regulatory system. The Canadian Marketing Association, the Canadian Bankers Association and three telemarketers asked the government to suspend those interim rules.

I point out that the Canadian Marketing Association has operated a do not call service since 1989. Since 1993 participation has been compulsory for the CMA's 800 corporate members. Even though this voluntary registry tries to address the problem, Canadians continue to be dissatisfied with their ability to control unwanted telemarketing.

The Canadian Marketing Association itself requested that the government introduce legislation to provide a national do not call list. Some players in the telemarketing industry are asking for smarter regulation. The government has made smart regulation a priority, and this bill introduces smart regulation to the call centres of Canada.

Other countries have introduced new regulations to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls. In 2003 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission launched a national do not call registry. Some 62 million Americans subscribed to the registry in the first year alone.

Last January an online survey found that the U.S. do not call registry had been remarkably successful. More than half of all adults said they had signed up and most of those people said they had either received no telemarketing calls since then or far less than before. This survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, estimates that on average those who subscribe to the registry have seen unsolicited calls drop from 30 calls per month to 6.

The operation of the U.S. registry is straightforward. Subscribers register their home telephone numbers, not their names, online or via a toll free telephone number. U.S. sellers and telemarketers are charged fees to access the registry. They have to check it every 90 days and to scrub names on it from their call lists.

For some types of calls, telemarketing firms are not required to respect the registry: calls to current clients, calls for the purpose of administering a survey or poll, and those made on behalf of charitable organizations. Telemarketing companies working on behalf of charitable organizations must, however, keep their own do not call lists.

The costs of the American registry are relatively low. A T & T administered the list in the first year of operation, and the cost was $3.5 million. Costs are recovered from telemarketers and other vendors from registry access charges. In the United States, consumers do not have to pay to be added to the list.

What is the situation elsewhere? In 1999, the United Kingdom passed legislative provisions creating a telephone preference service to protect people for unwanted telephone calls or faxes from telemarketers. They were amended in 2003 to include all telecommunications.

The restrictions the UK has imposed on the telemarketing industry apply to a broad range of activities, including the marketing of goods and services, but also the promotion of the organizational goals and ideals, including those of charitable organizations and political parties seeking donations or support.

The costs of the service are recovered from the direct marketing industry. Again, the consumer pays nothing.

In the end, the implementation of systems in other countries to protect consumers from telemarketing calls has proven a cost-effective means of protecting them from unsolicited telemarketing. The experience elsewhere provides us with examples for a Canadian system. The bill before us provides the CRTC with the tools it needs to establish a do not call list tailored to Canadian requirements. The CRTC will designate an independent administrator for the list.

It will also set up a system of fines. It will consult the industry and consumers in designating organizations to be exempted from the regulations.

The evidence is clear. Almost all parties and the CRTC itself recognize that current rules do not serve the interests of Canadians concerned with nuisance telemarketing. The industry finds that the CRTC's interim rules are unduly onerous and from coast to coast Canadians will applaud our efforts to provide them with relief from nuisance telephone calls.

I urge hon. members to support the bill and to refer it to committee. It is good news for our privacy and good news for Canadians.

Public Works and Government Services February 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. For some time now I have been preoccupied that our companies would be allowed to compete on an international basis for outsource production. I would like to ask the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to clarify whether or not he has taken any action to ensure that these pins are manufactured in Canada.

Justice December 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. It concerns the very important subject of trafficking of children.

It was brought to my attention that Canada has not yet ratified the United Nations optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

What will the Government of Canada do to address this important question, and thus better protect the rights of children, both domestically and internationally?

Orléans - St. Vincent de Paul December 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring to the attention of the House the great success of the annual Christmas drive held by the St. Vincent de Paul organization in Orléans last Sunday. During the drive, more than 400 volunteers took to the streets of Orléans. It ended with a supper in the basement of St-Joseph Church. The volunteers collected a whopping $30,000.

This, along with the collection of a great number of food items and clothing, is unprecedented. St. Vincent de Paul members in Orléans have reason to be proud today. Thanks to the generosity of all those volunteers and the people of Orléans, the society will be able to continue its help to more than 150 families in need.

Orléans St. Vincent de Paul is a community model for all Canadians and, on behalf of all those who have benefited from its efforts in the past and all those who will benefit from them in the future, I want to congratulate this organization for its work. Ottawa—Orléans is a great place to live.

I also want to thank and congratulate Ronald Leduc for his ongoing dedication and leadership within the community.

In closing, I invite all my colleagues who are early risers to attend the next event, the guignolée des médias—

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act December 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the protection of wage earners when their employers go bankrupt is not a partisan issue, nor should it be. All of us in the House are concerned about this problem. We agree, I am sure, that wage earners, whose employers have gone bankrupt, leaving wages and other benefits unpaid, are vulnerable. Over the years, different governments have considered options for wage earner protection. Each option has both benefits and drawbacks. I am confident that members on all sides would like to see the most equitable solution possible and are prepared to work toward the solution.

I wish to congratulate the member from Winnipeg for having brought this to the attention of the House. As a starting point for this debate, let me note that the government agrees that wage protection is deserving of attention. I can also tell the House that the government is actively exploring options in order to deal with this important issue.

To better assess the bill, let me describe the features of the current act. To protect employees, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act makes employees preferred creditors when their employer goes bankrupt. That places them ahead of ordinary creditors but behind secured creditors. This preferred status is limited to $2,000 in wages earned in the six months before bankruptcy, including vacation pay. Amounts in excess of $2,000 remain as ordinary claims. It also protects up to $1,000 in disbursements for sales people.

The provision for wage liability also exists in the Canada Business Corporations Act. Right now directors of corporations are jointly and severally liable to employees for six months wages in the event of a bankruptcy. This is an absolute liability.

Bill C-281 would radically alter the situation. It fails in some ways to reflect the many other parties in a bankruptcy. Bill C-281 proposes to give unlimited super priority protection to all employment-related claims. In addition to wages and vacation pay, it would add termination and severance pay and other benefits. It would also add protection for pensions, including unfunded liability. In that respect, I personally have some sympathy for that aspect of the bill.

Upon bankruptcy, these claims would be moved ahead of all other creditors. For any shortfalls in recovery, directors of a company would have personal liability that would be determined, not in court but by an adjudicator, without right of appeal.

There are a great many drawbacks to this bill.

The amount of the termination and severance pay and unfunded pension plan liability could far exceed the total wages owing, potentially reaching several billions. As a result, this super priority will, without a doubt, have a negative impact on credit availability and commercial loan rates, which will make business start ups or expansions more difficult than ever, in a number of situations.

As for the clauses relating to directors' responsibilities, the bill does not add very much, except to set in place a parallel system without some of the usual recourses. Regardless of cost, the standard of rigour imposed by absolute liability would justify the existence of guidelines compatible with formal legal procedures.

Bill C-281 puts pension claims in the same basket as wage claims, despite the fact that pensions are covered by separate legislative regimes, and in a number of instances by provincial legislation. Mechanisms making it possible to address pension issues are already in place in these forums, and concerns relating to unfunded pension liabilities should be raised there to ensure employee protection.

Finally, even with this type of protection in place, payments would not be guaranteed, nor would they be made promptly. Many stakeholders maintain that the promptness and certainty of payment are essential to worker protection. Creation of a wage protection fund is one valid option, which merits a thorough study, along with super priority and other factors.

The significance of this bill is that while it does go a great deal further in protecting workers, the scope of what it includes shifts an unreasonable burden to other stakeholders. As a result, it could have a detrimental impact on the ability of businesses to access credit and increase employment opportunities for Canadians.

This is not what our insolvency system is about. Bankruptcy laws are a significant part of our marketplace framework. The bill would have a negative effect on commercial activity. Creditors grant credit based upon the assessment of risk. Bill C-281 would significantly increase that risk. While some of the creditors who may be adversely affected are those often thought of as being able to take care of themselves, such as large institutions, some are individual contractors and small businesses that are no better able to face the loss than employees.

In fact, small businesses and new start-ups are two of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to insolvency because they are hit twice. As creditors, they cannot afford the greater losses that the bill would cause. Greater costs of borrowing as debtors makes it less likely that they can get started and thus create jobs.

We must be mindful of these effects, as we all know the importance to the Canadian economy of small and mid-sized enterprises.

Our system must respect the risks taken by small businesses and independent contractors that also have claims in bankruptcies. It must respect the security interests of creditors. It must respect the efforts of directors who try to ensure the survival of the company. And yes, it certainly must respect employees. The fact is that bankruptcy is about not having enough money to go around. The issue is how best to allocate that shortfall when everyone deserves to be paid.

I am not saying that superpriority should be rejected as a way of handling wage and pension contribution claims in bankruptcy, but I am stressing that it is a complex issue, that it has a long history and that it involves certain trade-offs. The economic effect of any change needs to be thoroughly considered.

Last year, the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce conducted a comprehensive review of our insolvency system. The committee only went so far as to recommend that the existing protection be elevated to a limited superpriority over some assets. It further recommended that pensions not be included in this form of protection and in that aspect I think it did not go too far.

To conclude, I have sketched out these details to make a simple point clear to my hon. colleagues of various stripes.

My point is that this whole issue of wage earner protection in the event of a bankruptcy is of great interest and must be addressed. However, to find a fairer solution than what currently exists will require a great deal of work and thought. The process is already well underway but is not yet complete. The solution put forward in Bill C-281 is neither practical nor reasonable in certain circumstances, because of its impact on other stakeholders.

As I indicated at the beginning, this is not a partisan issue. Different governments have been confronted with this issue, which must be resolved. In 1991, a bill was introduced to establish a wage claim protection program to be financed through payroll, but it was not passed. There are various models for increasing protections, and these were discussed during the period before the amendment of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in 1997. But once again, consensus could not be achieved.

Still, and I stress this point again, while Bill C-281 is certainly well intentioned, it is definitely not the best solution.

Industry Canada is currently working on developing a fair solution to ensure the protection of workers whose employer has declared bankruptcy. Until such time as this work is complete, the government cannot support a bill to amend existing safeguards.

However, I give my personal pledge to work with my hon. colleague to find a solution that is fair to all those involved.

Taekwondo Association of Canada November 24th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, last September I visited the Demers Taekwon-Do in my riding to speak about the importance of supporting our young people and to present the Canadian flag to the junior boys and girls of the Taekwondo Association of Canada's national team. At that time they were preparing for the taekwondo world championships in Daejon City in South Korea. The championship was held in October.

Five members of the Canadian junior team live in my riding. Two members of the junior girls team brought home gold medals. Today I would like to recognize them: Annik Laferrier, 1st Dan, age 17; and Jessica Ford, 1st Dan, age 17.

I would like very much to pay tribute to the determination and devotion shown by these young people.

Finally, I wish to recognize their coach, Michel Demers, Vth Dan; coordinator, Mr. Harry Burke; and, most important, the parents, Mrs. Diane Laferrier and Mr. John Ford.

Congratulations to Annik and Jessica. Ottawa—Orléans and Canada are very proud of them.

World Trade Organization November 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight in this debate on the agricultural negotiations before the World Trade Organization.

The WTO is primarily an instrument to ensure domestic prosperity. It offers our exporters access to the markets of the world, a stable and predictable business climate, and equal chances for all our producers. It also makes it possible for our importers to purchase supplies from the most efficient producers in the world and thus pay prices low enough to stimulate productivity and provide more choice to consumers.

The WTO sets the rules for international trade. These multilateral rules are an essential instrument in Canada's exchanges with its long-standing partners like the U.S., the EU and Japan, and with emerging markets such as China, Brazil, India and the developing world.

The WTO helps us to manage our disputes with the United States and our other trading partners by relying on the rules and not the power of the parties. In short, the WTO opens the door to the world's markets for Canada.

As a middle size nation that depends on trade, Canada knows that it is important to have clear and enforceable rules and efficient dispute settlement mechanisms so that political power does not adversely affect worldwide trade in agricultural and food products.

Canada has always worked with a broad range of countries to establish a system of trade in which all nations, regardless of political or economic weight, could compete under the same conditions established according to the terms of multilateral agreements.

That is why the negotiations on agriculture at the WTO are so essential to all of Canada and the agri-food sector in particular. These negotiations give us an excellent opportunity to work with other countries to establish equal opportunity for everyone by addressing the foreign subsidies and tariff barriers that create unfair competition on foreign markets

Before the negotiations on agriculture began in 2000, the government held extensive consultations with the provincial governments and the entire agri-food sector in order to define Canada's initial negotiation position. As a result of these consultations, the main objective became to establish equal opportunity for everyone.

More specifically, we want export subsidies to be eliminated as soon as possible, internal support that distorts trade to be eliminated or at least reduced, and access to markets to be improved in a true and appreciable way for all agriculture and agri-food products. Our negotiating position has helped Canada propose solid and credible ideas and approaches throughout the negotiations.

I am proud to say that Canada is one of the most active and influential countries in these negotiations. Our negotiators are working with a broad range of developed and developing countries to find a solution.

Supply November 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, for his excellent presentation. It is obvious that he is well informed on this issue.

I think his overview of what the government has done to date on this was excellent. Perhaps he could suggest to us what the next steps to consider would be in connection with the initiative we are discussing today?

Nelson Mandela Children's Fund November 17th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, December 2 the Ottawa chapter of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund will be having a one day youth leadership conference on Parliament Hill. I would like to congratulate the Ottawa chair, Mr. Zul Khoja of Ottawa--Orleans, for making this possible.

Forty-five teens from three local high schools will be exposed to the culture and history of South Africa through activity based workshops.

Literally thousands of young people are orphaned, live in abject poverty and/or are ravaged by AIDS in South Africa. Apartheid may be over, but the legacy lives on.

This conference is supported by the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, CIDA and the South African High Commission.

As a former educator, I strongly support this initiative and welcome every opportunity to bring the plight of South African children to everyone's attention. This initiative is kids helping kids. That is why I support it. That is why we should all support it.

Child Care November 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Social Development. The early childhood and child care issue is of critical importance to francophone and Acadian communities.

Can the minister assure the House that, in the context of federal, provincial and territorial negotiations on child care, special consideration has been given, or will be given to services and programs for minority francophone and Acadian communities? Can the minister confirm that a fair share of the funds and services will be earmarked for these communities?