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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was afghanistan.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Conservative MP for Mississauga—Streetsville (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2008, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act May 9th, 2005

Madam Speaker, does my colleague believe that the establishment of the HRSDC department will result in better programming? In his opinion, how will programs be better delivered?

Food and Drugs Act May 5th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among all parties, and if you seek it I believe you will find unanimous consent that the order for the second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-282, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (export permits), standing in my name on the order of precedence on the order paper, be discharged and the bill be withdrawn.

Parkinson Society Canada April 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to mention to my colleagues that April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month in Canada and around the world. Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Parkinson Society Canada.

Today more than 100,000 Canadians suffer from Parkinson's disease. Sadly, experts are predicting that this number will more than double over the next decade. Also troubling is the fact that there is a diminishing number of neurologists who are able to assist and treat those who are suffering from the devastating impact of Parkinson's.

Please join me in offering our support to Parkinson Society Canada as it works to fund research for a cure and to deliver support programs that are essential to those battling Parkinson's today.

Income Tax Act April 14th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill put forward by the hon. member for Essex. The bill would exempt from taxation 50% of the U.S. social security benefits received by taxpayers in Canada. Currently, the exemption is 15%.

This government does not support the bill. I recommend that hon. members of the House not support this bill for a very simple reason: Canadian seniors receiving the Canada pension plan, the Quebec pension plan or old age security benefits are subject to tax on 100% of their income under our tax system, just as employees are generally subject to a tax of 100% of their employment income.

Of course if that senior citizen is a low income taxpayer because of our progressive tax system, he or she, depending on the circumstances, may pay little or no tax on that income.

As a basic rule, however, a senior citizen is subject to tax on 100% of income because income is income, whether it is employment income, investment income or pension income, and it is a basic premise of our tax system that taxpayers having the same income should pay the same tax.

As I mentioned, a senior living in Canada who is receiving U.S. social security benefits is taxed at only 85% of his or her income. I invite members to consider carefully that statement and what it means. Two senior citizens, one receiving CPP and the other receiving U.S. social security, each with the same amount of income, are taxed differently. The senior citizen receiving CPP would, all other things being equal, pay more tax than the senior citizen receiving U.S. social security benefits. The tax system, as it stands, grants preferential treatment to recipients of U.S. social security benefits. I will discuss in a moment why the disparate treatment exists.

First, I want to state that this government will not support a bill that seeks to widen this disparity, a bill that would extend the existing exemption of 15% to 50%.

In the United States, the maximum inclusion rate for social security benefits is 85%. This may serve as some justification for granting the current 15% exemption to Canadian taxpayers in receipt of those U.S. benefits but I am not persuaded as a matter of tax policy.

As a general rule, and it is a sensible rule, U.S. law does not apply to Canadians living in Canada.

New Zealand does not tax capital gains, which is its choice, but that does not mean a Canadian taxpayer selling property situated in New Zealand should therefore not pay tax on any gains.

Canadians are taxed according to Canadian rules and a fundamental aspect of our rules is that similarly situated taxpayers should be taxed similarly, regardless of where their income comes from.

We also have tax treaties with a number of countries, including the United States. These treaties are exceptionally important for they allow Canadians to engage in international trade and commerce without worrying that competing jurisdictions would both tax the same revenue. Without these treaties, a good deal of commerce simply would not take place.

In negotiating these treaties, there is always a quid pro quo. The rule in the current Canada-U.S. treaty that grants a 15% exemption to Canadian recipients of U.S. social security was the result of a negotiated settlement with the United States. Previously, our arrangement had been that the country where the payment arose would have exclusive taxing jurisdiction in respect of these benefits.

As a result, these payments were subject to a final 25.5% withholding tax imposed by the United States. For low income Canadians, this high withholding tax constituted a considerable hardship, since if the benefits had been taxed by Canada these taxpayers would have paid little or no tax.

In negotiating the treaty we sought and obtained residence based taxation in order to help these low income Canadians. In exchange, we agreed to a 15% exemption. This was a negotiated settlement. We got what we wanted: residence based taxation. This allows for low income seniors who are receiving U.S. social security benefits to access our progressive rates and pay little or no tax instead of being subject to a punitive 25.5% withholding tax imposed by the United States.

The United States in exchange received a concession on our part, a 15% exemption so that the maximum inclusion rate under our law would be the same as the maximum inclusion rate under their law. In parallel, recipients of Canadian social security benefits residing in the United States are taxed there according to the U.S. rules and so would also benefit from a maximum inclusion rate of 85%.

The bill proposed by the Conservative member would extend the exemption of 15%, arrived at through negotiation, to 50%. What would then be the answer to the retirees receiving Canada pension plan, Quebec pension plan or old age security benefits who ask why they are paying twice as much tax as the person receiving U.S. social security benefits?

In conclusion, the bill should not receive the support of the House.

Immigration April 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, after years of making anti-immigrant statements, the Conservatives are now trying to cast themselves as pro-immigrant. How ironic.

A Conservative member recently admitted before a parliamentary committee to accepting personal guarantees of $50,000 from constituents to help them obtain a visitor's visa.

This is unfair and unethical. What this says is that if a person can afford a member's support then welcome to Canada but, if not, then do not bother applying.

To make matters worse, the Leader of the Opposition threatened legal action yesterday against a minister over the debacle.

May I remind the House that the statement made by the Conservative member in question can be found in official committee transcripts.

I find it appalling that when the member for Newton--North Delta came into this country seeking opportunity they closed the door behind him.

Pharmaceutical Industry March 22nd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, this year Canadians have seen dramatic examples of how difficult it can be for consumers to access information for the safety of pharmaceuticals. Could the Minister of Health tell us what work he is doing to help ensure Canadians have access to both safe drugs and safety information about drugs on the market?

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act February 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak on a bill that concerns the future of young Canadians in our country.

I commend the member for Halifax for encouraging us to revisit the timelines and procedures we have in place for the repayment of Canada student loans by those facing financial difficulties.

It seems that the bill is asking us to take a very simple step. Currently, students or recent graduates who declare bankruptcy cannot discharge their Canada student loans for 10 years following their declarations. The bill requests that we change the 10 year period to a 2 year period. We can presume that the intention behind the bill is to ease the financial responsibilities of those who declare bankruptcy by discharging their student debt earlier.

Unfortunately, the issue is more complex than we might at first think. We will need to examine closely the repercussions of taking such a step.

Let me first acknowledge that students today are facing increased costs of post-secondary education and, as a result, increased debt loads. It is not easy for them to finance their education and that is where the Canada student loan program comes into play. Without these loans, many Canadian students would never make it to college or university. It is our way of levelling the playing field, of increasing access to post-secondary education for all Canadians regardless of their socio-economic status, their gender or their ethnic background. Everyone can apply and everyone is treated equally.

For most students, post-secondary education helps them develop the skills and experience they need to launch their careers and find employment. With this employment, they are able to pay back their student loans over time.

Some students, however, face financial difficulties and have problems meeting their loan repayment obligations. Between 1990 and 1997, for example, 53,000 students and recent graduates declared personal bankruptcy to discharge this obligation, at a cost to taxpayers of $445 million in defaulted federal student loans. That is an average of over 7,500 students and $63.5 million per year. Incidentally, that was when we last had the two year rule: after a two year waiting period following bankruptcy, student debt was automatically discharged.

Not surprisingly, the Government of Canada became concerned about the high number of bankruptcies taking place in the 1990s. We did not and we do not want young Canadians to make such a drastic move so early in their lives. They often do not realize the negative impact that declaring bankruptcy will have on their credit rating and their future financial and personal well-being.

In 1998 the Government of Canada decided to act. We brought in the Canadian opportunities strategy, which introduced new measures to help young Canadians manage their student debt. For the first time all students were eligible to get tax relief for interest payments on their student loans.

Interest relief was extended for a maximum of 30 months to up to 54 months during the first five years after leaving school. The measure provides students in financial difficulty with relief of loan payments. While on interest relief, students are not required to make any payments on their loans, of either principal or interest.

Students were able to extend their loan repayment period from 10 years to up to 15 years in order to lower their monthly loan payments to more manageable levels.

Debt reduction in repayment was introduced to provide students remaining in financial difficulty five years after leaving school with a reduction in loan principal of up to $10,000 or 50% of the loan principal, whichever was less.

These debt management measures were introduced in tandem with a change to the bankruptcy rule from two years to 10 years to help students manage their debt and provide an alternative to bankruptcy.

As a direct result, the number of student loan bankruptcies in defaults declined significantly. Between 1998 and 2000, only 5,945 borrowers declared bankruptcy, representing $42 million in federal student loans. This is less than half the average annual figures for the previous seven years.

As demonstrated by the Canadian opportunities strategy, we are doing much to support students as they work to repay their student loans. In doing so, we are also making sure that bankruptcy is absolutely the last option and one they will hopefully never have to take.

The 2003 federal budget announced further enhancements by extending eligibility for debt management measures to students who, despite their best efforts, found themselves in bankruptcy. As of May 11, 2004, students who declare bankruptcy may be eligible for both interest relief and debt reduction in repayment. In addition, new Canada student loans are available to students who declare bankruptcy while still in school so that they can finish their post-secondary studies and meet their obligations to repay outstanding student loans.

The 2004 federal budget further enhanced existing measures to provide even more support for borrowers who face financial difficulties. These include: increasing the amount of debt reduction available from $20,000 to $26,000; and increasing the income thresholds used to determine eligibility for interest relief by 5%.

If we are doing all of this to support Canadian students, why not go one step further and change the 10 year rule back to the 2 year rule that we had before 1998? It is for three very important reasons: we need to be fair; we need to be realistic; and we need, most of all, to be accountable.

First of all, we need to be fair to Canadian citizens. We are using taxpayer revenues to finance Canada student loans. Canadians are therefore investing in the future of their country by investing in the future of its young people. As investors, they have every right to expect that legally binding agreements will be respected and student loans will be repaid.

We need to be fair to other students by treating them equally and affording them all the same rights and responsibilities under the Canada student loans program. Canadian students have the right to apply for a student loan, but they also have the responsibility to pay back that loan, even when times get tough. We are responsible to them, but they are responsible to us.

We need to be fair to future students. The Canada student loans program has existed for 40 years. We must ensure that it remains an economically viable program for the next 40 years and beyond.

Our parents benefited from student loans and many of us have benefited from student loans. We must protect this program so that our children can also benefit. We cannot do that if the money loaned out today does not get paid tomorrow.

Health February 17th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, experts believe that the deadly Asian bird flu is poised to trigger a global influenza pandemic. The World Health Organization is urging governments to start manufacturing and stockpiling vaccines to respond to this threat.

Will the Minister of Health tell the House what his department plans to do to answer the WHO's request?

National Security February 9th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, in a world where terrorism poses a threat, constituents in my riding understand we need security measures. However, they also expect the government to understand their concerns about the impact of policies and to ensure we get the balance right.

Earlier this year the government proposed a cross-cultural round table on security. Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness update the House on when this round table will be established?

Infrastructure December 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities.

The gridlock between Mississauga and Toronto is horrendous. It costs businesses billions of dollars. It is creating deadly air pollution and affecting the quality of people's lives. This problem must be addressed. The way to address the problem is a bus rapid transit link between Kipling and Square One.

The people in the Mississauga and Toronto corridor can wait no longer. I understand that the municipal and provincial governments are ready. Will the minister commit to funding the BRT project from the strategic infrastructure--