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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was offence.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Welland (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 14% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act January 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, job creation and job maintenance are so important for this country. It is certainly one of the issues of the day. It is my position that this would provide for stability and would provide new jobs. We are a trading nation. It would also protect existing jobs. As such, we should be endorsing this unanimously, all the parties in this House.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act January 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I certainly respect my colleague's comments on the Liberals' position on the MAI. The Liberal Party is always open to suggestions and constructive comments. Following a review of the possibility of entering into it, they withdrew it and that was a good move.

To suggest that the ratification of this agreement is the same as the MAI, I would suggest it is not. I look at the business community and the trading community, all of whom are very supportive of this agreement. I would suggest that if the worker on the street or in the factory were given the option, if he had the choice between arbitrating disputes under this agreement or not having a job, he would welcome the assurance of stability in his employment and would also endorse it.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act January 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to review article 71 which states, “any contracting state may denounce this convention by written notice to the depository of this convention. The denunciation shall take effect six months after receipt of such notice”.

If things do not work as we anticipate they will, if it is not a positive outcome in becoming a signatory and having it ratified, then we have the ability to opt out. There is an escape mechanism which is very prudent and very beneficial, but I would anticipate that this country would not exercise its rights under article 71.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act January 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that this is an option. Companies have the right to use this possibility, or they could sue within the country where the situation happened. There is a right of appeal. Other members have pointed out section 52, and perhaps on some very narrow grounds, a creative litigant could probably amplify those grounds.

The business community today wants an answer and it wants it quickly. Businesses are not about to be ground into submission after 10 years of litigation at a huge cost. They are prepared to use this procedure to get a quick and efficient decision and one that is enforceable.

Admittedly, not all countries around the globe are signatories to this agreement, but I suggest this will change as more and more people sign on and more and more ratification takes place.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act January 28th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I stand to speak today to Bill C-9, An Act to implement the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention).

This bill implements the international convention on the settlement of international disputes between states and nationals of other states which was open for signature in Washington back on March 18, 1965. It generally creates a set of rules for mutually agreed upon arbitration hearings between investors and foreign state governments. It ensures that the courts in any of the signatory countries have the legal means to enforce any decisions in the ICSID hearings.

As a trading nation, Canada and Canadian and international investors require protection, stability and confidence. Should disputes arise, and they do, it is essential that fair, equitable and judicious treatment is available when necessary.

The ICSID convention is an international instrument sponsored by the World Bank to facilitate and increase the flow of cross-border investment. The convention establishes a mechanism to resolve investment disputes between foreign investors and the host state in which they have made their investment.

The ICSID convention entered into force, as I said, on October 14, 1966 and my understanding is that 156 countries have signed the agreement with Canada signing on December 15, 2006. As of January 2007, 143 states have ratified the convention, making it one of the most ratified instruments in the world. The majority of Canada's trading partners are party to the convention.

Investment disputes brought under the convention are administered by the international center for settlement of investment disputes located in Washington, D.C. In the last few years the activity of the centre has soared due to increased flows of cross-border investment and the number of investment treaties referred to ICSID arbitration.

While the centre had over 110 arbitrations in total during the first 40 years of its existence, there are currently 105 proceedings underway. Since its inception, the centre has established itself as a reliable and effective organization for resolving investment disputes.

Once ratified the convention will provide additional protection to Canadian investors abroad by allowing them to include in their contracts with foreign states the option of arbitration under ICSID convention. In addition Canadian investors doing business in the country with which Canada has a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement will have recourse to ICSID arbitration for violations of that agreement as well.

Becoming a party to the ICSID convention will also make Canada a more attractive destination for international investors and that will mean jobs for Canadians.

The most significant advantage of the convention is the enforcement of arbitral awards. Unlike awards issued by other arbitral institutions, domestic courts cannot refuse to enforce decisions issued under the ICSID convention. Rather, such awards are enforceable in any country that has ratified the convention as if they were a final judgments of the courts in that state.

The tremendous growth in investment and investment-stated disputes has made Canada's failure to ratify ICSID the focus of attention by Canadian business, the Canadian legal community and our trading partners. As I have indicated, to date 143 states have ratified the ICSID convention. The majority of our major trading partners are parties to it except for Mexico, India and Brazil. Ratifying the ICSID would bring Canadian policy into line with our OECD partners.

In a survey conducted by the ICSID centre in 2004, 79% of the respondents said ICSID plays a vital role in their country's legal framework and 61% said ICSID membership has contributed to a positive investment climate. Those are significant numbers.

The ICSID regime provides several important advantages, and compared to other arbitration mechanisms, the ICSID regime provides better guarantees regarding enforcement of awards and more limited local court intervention. Any arbitral award rendered under the auspices of ICSID is binding and any resulting pecuniary obligation must be enforced as if the award were a final domestic court judgment.

Moreover, all ICSID contracting states, whether or not parties to the dispute, are required by the convention to recognize and to enforce ICSID arbitral awards. Investors often prefer to rely on such arbitrations rather than on local courts of the country whose measures are in dispute to ensure an independent resolution of the dispute.

ICSID's relationship to the World Bank assists investors in obtaining compliance with ICSID awards and its roster of arbitrators gives investors access to well-qualified arbitrators at ICSID controlled rates, with extensive experience in international investments arbitration. ICSID also provides important institutional support for litigants.

The ICSID convention is a well-known tool for the settlement of investment disputes. Therefore, the interpretation of the convention and its usefulness are predictable.

Canada already has numerous links with ICSID. Provisions consenting to ICSID arbitration are commonly found in contracts between governments of other countries and Canadian investors. The NAFTA in chapter 11, the Canada-Chile free trade agreement, and most of our bilateral foreign investment protection agreements, or FIPAs, provide for ICSID as a dispute settlement option that can be chosen by an investor if both the state of the investor and the host state for the investor are parties to the ICSID.

Obviously Canada must become a party to the ICSID because Canada and Canadian investors cannot benefit from the choice if Canada is not a member. This is an increasingly important problem. Within Canada the use of ICSID would be consistent with the policy of supporting the use of the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for investor-state disputes. While ICSID is less expensive and more efficient than current alternatives, it is not expected to lead to increased litigation against the government.

Under a government whose recent record is one of stifling international participation by Canadian companies, it is important that we pass a bill that protects the rights of our investors in other jurisdictions. With hugely increased trade with emerging giants, such as China, and other countries with governance structures much different from our own, it is important, in fact it is essential, that Canada be a part of the international convention on the enforcement of investors' rights.

Infrastructure November 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the federal government plays a critical role in the health of Canadians across the country. Recognizing such and to commemorate our country's Centennial in 1967, a previous Liberal government established a program to assist municipalities, large and small, to build recreational facilities such as community pools, libraries, seniors centres, ice rinks and baseball diamonds, just to name a few.

After 40 years of intensive and enjoyable use by children and adults alike, our country's deteriorating recreational infrastructure is in need of immediate attention. We must ensure that quality recreational facilities will continue to be available for our citizens of all ages to contribute to a positive lifestyle and, more important, their health.

Our towns and cities are in fiscal crisis and need financial federal assistance to address the compelling need. I urge the government, in partnership with the provincial and local governments, to immediately create a new infrastructure program dedicated to replacing our crumbling recreational facilities.

I say this to the Prime Minister. Yes, our municipalities are important.

November 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, for the fortunate Canadians who can travel to a passport office, the processing has been excellent. I commend our passport personnel for their exemplary service. I know the St. Catharines passport office is under exceptional pressure, yet has always come through in the emergency cases it handles. Taking an application directly to a passport office is definitely the best way to get a passport right now.

Unfortunately, the majority of Canadians do not have access to a passport office and must rely on the mail-in system and worry if they will have a passport in time for a travel date.

Canadians deserve better. Will the minister responsible for Passport Canada admit that he has not done his job? His government is aware of the annual increase of applications over the winter months and has been aware of the implementation of the WHTI since it took office in January 2006.

Canadians are still waiting for the not so new, and indeed aging, government to fix the problem. The member opposite simply does not get it. The initiatives undertaken, as elaborated upon by the parliamentary secretary, simply do not cut it. They are insufficient. The Auditor General is waiting for them to fix the problem.

Will the minister finally take full responsibility for delays at the passport office and remedy this unacceptable situation? How long will the government continue to mishandle this file? How long will it be before Canadians get their passport when they actually need it?

November 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, tonight's adjournment proceedings arise from a question I asked on October 29 regarding the crisis of passport applications mailed in for processing.

Last February, the former foreign affairs minister told us that 500 new passport employees had been hired, that capacity had increased by 40%, and that the matter was in hand.

In June the foreign minister assured the House that his government would see that passports were produced in a timely and efficient way. It seems that these assurances have gone the same way as income trusts and health wait times promises.

Right now, in anticipation of the busiest foreign travel season in some time, the booming Canadian dollar and the looming passport requirements at the Canada-U.S. borders, incredibly there is still a growing backlog and an admitted minimum six week delay to receive mail-in passports when the benchmark is four weeks. In fact, the reality is several months or longer. Two out of these three factors were known months in advance and still Canadians must suffer the consequences of poor planning.

Last January, the Auditor General specifically singled out the Conservatives because they had no plan to deal with the demand for passports. It appears they still have no plan and Canadians are the ones who are paying the price in cancelled trips and sheer frustration.

As a member of Parliament, my staff and I are on the receiving end of the irate calls from constituents who have to cancel, sometimes at great expense, business and personal trips after waiting months in vain for their passports.

In one case, two families sent in their applications at the same time because they planned to travel to Mexico together. After three months, only one family's applications were processed. The other family was told that their applications may be in a pile of unopened applications. Since the original birth certificates were in the unopened passport applications, their only option in order to travel to Mexico the following week was to go to Toronto and reapply for birth certificates that allowed admission to that country.

Last June, another constituent had to purchase a new birth certificate and reapply in person at the St. Catharines Passport Office because his mail-in application, that was submitted six weeks previously, was also not yet opened, let alone considered. At that time, the passport office informed us that it was currently working on applications received eight to twelve weeks prior.

These stories are not the fault of the overextended staff, only the fault of the government in not providing the extra resources that they need to keep up to the level of service expected.

In Niagara, the looming deadline of the western hemisphere travel initiative at our land border crossings is causing an additional strain on both our local passport office and the mail-in resources. On January 31, 2008, all Canadians entering the United States at a land border crossing must have a valid passport, a measure that disproportionately affects those who live in border communities such as Niagara.

For those of us who live adjacent to the border, the reality is that we move frequently and seamlessly between the two countries for work, cultural and sporting events, attending church or visiting family and friends. The pressure of this January 31, 2008, deadline is going to result in an ongoing increase of applications for the foreseeable future.

When is this government going to get control of this situation?

Manufacturing Industry November 13th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, Canadian manufacturing is struggling against a high Canadian dollar, rising energy costs and global competition. These negative impacts have been felt in the region of Niagara where the manufacturing sector has been a vital component of the local economy for decades and a primary source of employment. Its decline has led to significant and unacceptable job losses and plant closures.

I compliment the St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 1,000 local businesses and over 26,000 employees, for its intensive study and report on manufacturing, including its recommendation that the federal government provide targeted incentives for green technology in this essential area of our economy, as well as additional funding for research and development at our post-secondary institutions.

Such initiatives will put Canada at the cutting edge of green technology, helping stabilize and revitalize the manufacturing sector, while making it more resilient and competitive.

Urgent action by the Conservative government is essential to facilitate the transition into the modern economy and globalization. Niagara residents will benefit along with all Canadians.

Passports October 29th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, in January the Auditor General specifically singled out the Conservatives because they had no plan to deal with the demand for passports. It appears they still have no plan and Canadians are the ones who are going to pay the price in cancelled trips and sheer frustration.

How long will the government continue to mishandle this file? How long will it be before Canadians are able to get their passports when they actually need them?