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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

Passports October 29th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to contribute to the megacrisis at passport offices. The former foreign affairs minister told us nine months ago that 500 new passport employees had been hired, yet there is still a growing backlog and a six week delay to receive mail-in passports.

The massive lineups at passport offices across the country are only going to get longer as Canadians begin to plan their winter vacations. When is the government going to get control of the situation so Canadians can get their necessary passports quickly?

Petitions June 15th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on the income trust broken promise on behalf of Alan Shulman, who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said that the greatest fraud is a promise not kept.

The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax which wiped out over $25 billion of hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Atlantic Accord June 15th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, what is unique about the so-called typo in a letter the minister sent to Newfoundland and Labrador is that he is actually admitting a mistake. That could be a first in this entire government.

He refused even to apologize to the millions of investors from whom he swiped billions in hard-earned savings. He backtracked on deductibility but way too late.

Why is it the only time the government wants to correct a mistake is when the so-called mistake actually benefits people?

Atlantic Accord June 15th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the letter the finance minister wrote to his Newfoundland and Labrador counterpart, a move that he is now calling a mistake, is part of a growing pattern.

First there was the income trust bombshell that instantly and permanently wiped out $25 billion in retirement savings. The hare-brained interest deductibility proposal in the budget made us a laughing stock on the world stage. The Atlantic accord has been torn to shreds.

Why is it that everything the finance minister does needs to be corrected, clarified and rewritten after the fact? Why can he not get anything right the first time?

Manufacturing Industry June 14th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, there is a crisis in the manufacturing industry in Canada. During the past 20 years, Canada has lost more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs as companies downsize, move operations abroad, or simply close due to declining profit. In my region of Niagara alone, we have lost 4,400 jobs during the last five years and more are imminent. Canada's manufacturing sector is in dire need of attention.

This loss poses a major threat to the economy and the future of social programs. Manufacturing jobs generate over $20 million in real taxes that help maintain publicly funded health care, education and our country's infrastructure. More important, it pays mortgages, puts food on the table and clothes on backs.

Our country needs to set short term priorities and a long term plan to strengthen our manufacturing sectors. By focusing on fair trade, investment in research and development, the introduction of innovative technologies and continuous skills upgrading of our workforce, we will create a positive climate within Canada to lead the wave of new global manufacturing strategies, but we must act now.

Gasoline Prices June 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the issue of gas prices is affecting all Canadians, whether it is fuel for vehicles or home heating. The public is asking that governments take action to alleviate the wild fluctuations in prices forced on consumers without reasonable justification or transparency.

The previous Liberal government attempted to combat this problem by providing a direct monetary benefit to low income families and seniors, providing more funding for long term home heating conservation measures, investing more resources in the Competition Bureau to help investigate possible collusion among the oil companies and speeding up funding for money for public transit. Despite the cries of all the citizens of the country, this program has had its entire budget cut, all $500 million.

I call upon the Conservative government to reverse its decision to cut funding that helps both the poor and the environment, to commence an inquiry on these inflated prices and to rigorously prosecute violations of the Competition Act.

Canada-U.S. Border May 9th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the American government has unilaterally announced that it would not implement a much anticipated land pre-clearance pilot project at the Peace Bridge between Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario after two years of high level discussions. The measure was a key part of the security and prosperity partnership to keep borders open to trade but closed to terrorists.

The shared border management pilot would have seen U.S. customs and immigration operations move to the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge. While these kinds of pre-clearance activities already take place with American officials working in Canadian airports, the Peace Bridge pilot would have been a first and significant step to ease congestion at land border crossings.

A successful pilot project would have been expanded to other crossings, easing traffic snarls that cost Canada some $8 billion each year. The Peace Bridge is a major port of entry, with 1.3 million trucks and six million cars crossing annually. The expansion of this key international border crossing is long overdue and much hinged on a border pre-clearance agreement.

I implore the government to urge the United States to immediately reconsider its negative position. Shared border management is critical for U.S.-Canada commerce and, indeed, the entire North American economy.

Criminal Code May 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have always been tough on crime, but we are also smart on crime, which is a different position than the one taken by our Conservative friends.

I take no issue with a firm approach on those sections which the member opposite set out. However, it is the process involved in this bill that will come under the threat of a charter challenge. It is the process of three strikes--

Criminal Code May 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct. The Minister of Justice in his role as the Attorney General of Canada must certify that every bill that comes before the House meets charter challenges. He may have done so in this case.

I suggest that in view of the growing evidence and growing concern by many judicial minds and many professors that the “three strikes and you're out” provisions, the reverse onus provisions of this bill, do in fact violate our Constitution and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

My concern is that if in fact the bill does pass the House with these flaws that there will be court challenges costing time and money, and costing delay in other cases going forward until there is a final determination of whether it is or is not constitutional.

I am suggesting that because of the concern about this that we should have a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada before the law comes into effect. I say this with all due respect to our Attorney General. I doubt his position, but I am not the final arbiter. That would finally determine it and we could proceed one way or the other based on that determination. It would be much more prudent to do it that way.

Criminal Code May 4th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-27.

The bill will amend the dangerous offender and long term offender provisions of the Criminal Code to require the prosecutor to advise the court whether the prosecutor intends to proceed with an application for an assessment under those provisions when the prosecutor is of the opinion that the offence with which the offender is convicted is a serious personal injury offence that is a designated offence and that the offender was convicted previously at least twice of a designated offence, and was sentenced to at least two years or more of imprisonment for each of these convictions.

The bill also removes the court's discretion to refuse to order an assessment when it is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be found to be a dangerous offender or a long term offender.

Further, to provide that if the court is satisfied in a hearing for a dangerous offender designation, that the offence for which the offender has been convicted is a primary designated offence for which it would be appropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment of two years or more where the offender was convicted previously at least twice of a primary designated offence and was sentenced to at least two years of imprisonment for each of those convictions.

The provisions to make the designation are presumed to have been met unless the contrary is proved on a balance of probabilities.

Also, to clarify, that even when the conditions to make a dangerous offender designation have been met, a court must consider whether a lesser sentence, including a long term offender designation, would adequately protect the public and that neither the prosecutor nor the offender has the onus of proof in this matter.

The bill will also amend sections 810.1 and 810.2 of the Criminal Code to allow the duration of a recognizance to be for a period of up to two years if the court is satisfied that the defendant was convicted previously of an offence of a sexual nature against a child or a serious personal injury offence. Also, to clarify, the scope of conditions available for a recognizance is broad and those conditions may include electronic monitoring, treatment and a requirement to report to a designated authority.

I strongly support efforts to protect Canadians and punish repeat offenders who present a threat to our communities. That is why Canada already has some of the toughest dangerous offender laws. I suggest the Liberal Party is definitely committed to passing justice legislation that will protect Canadian communities.

While we support Bill C-27 at second reading, our concerns about the effectiveness of the bill are serious enough that we will definitely introduce amendments in committee.

I want to assure the House that our amendments are not designed to weaken the bill, but to in fact make it stronger and more effective by getting dangerous offenders off our streets.

The government has indicated that the purpose of the bill is to make it easier for Crown attorneys to obtain dangerous offender designations. In fact, I suggest the contrary may be true.

What will happen if the bill passes? First, the Crown attorney will have to give notice presumably after two convictions. Right now two convictions are not needed. It could be done after one conviction if it can be established the individual will be a threat to society. In fact, an indeterminate sentence can be obtained based simply on one conviction. The Crown attorney is still forced to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these elements of that individual's behaviour threaten society at large.

Will the proposed law make our society safer because of a need for multiple convictions? I suggest not.

Under the current legislation, a Crown attorney can trigger an application for a dangerous offender hearing when the offender is convicted of a predicate serious personal injury offence. This is defined as being a specific sexual assault offence or an offence that was violent or potentially violent, and which carries a maximum sentence of at least 10 years or more.

Under the proposed bill, offenders who already have three previous designated offences which are listed in the bill and are facing a dangerous offender hearing will be presumed to be dangerous offenders unless they can prove, on the balance of probabilities, that they are not. This reverse onus is highly controversial and many legal experts have already indicated that they feel it is unconstitutional. Officials from the Department of Justice have indicated that they anticipate that these new provisions will face a constitutional challenge.

The existing dangerous offender sections have already been found to be constitutionally valid. By grafting on sections that raise constitutional questions, the Conservative government is putting the entire regime in jeopardy.

While it is likely that a court would simply strike down the offending sections and leave the rest of the regime in place, it could choose to strike down the entire regime. By introducing sections that they know to be unconstitutional, the Conservatives are wasting the time of the police, the Crown attorneys and our already overworked courts.

I suggest that the implications have not been well thought out. If the entire section was struck down, would this lead to current dangerous offenders being given an open door to challenge the grounds of the indefinite incarceration sentences they are already serving? Could we see the likes of Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson back on the street? Are the Conservatives willing to take that risk? I urge and implore the Conservatives to consider a reference to the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of these proposed changes. We do not need a flood of monsters back on our streets.

The new legislation could also lead to a series of unintended consequences. Due to the reverse onus which comes into play on a third conviction, both defence lawyers and Crown attorneys will approach earlier convictions in a different manner. Defence lawyers in particular would be less likely to seek a plea bargain for their clients if it starts them down the road toward three convictions.

Fewer plea bargains mean more trials and more trials lead to more backlog in our already overworked provincial courts. The bill does not provide for any additional resources for the provinces that are primary administrators of the justice system in our country.

Many of these flaws, I suggest, could have been avoided had the government held specific and widespread consultations with the provinces and key stakeholders in advance of introducing this bill, as is the common practice. The Liberal Party would not oppose legislation that makes the dangerous offender sections of the Criminal Code stronger, provided it was done in a constitutional manner and that provinces receive the assistance they require to effectively handle the new provisions. This has not happened.

I strongly support legislative efforts to protect Canadians and to punish offenders who represent threats to the safety of our communities across Canada. When changes are made to the current working system, they should be done in a manner that would not jeopardize the system that works now. Changes proposed must respect the constitutional standards and not risk successful constitutional challenges which could undermine the protections we already have in this country.

I would like to turn briefly to a consideration of the long term offender designation. The former Liberal government in 1997 created a long term offender designation, which was targeted at sexual and violent offenders in response to concerns that many sexual and violent offenders required specific attention, even if not meeting the criteria of a dangerous offender. A change was needed as now we have over 300 offenders under the long term offender designation in Canada.

This long term offender designation allows individuals convicted of a serious personal injury offence, who on the evidence are likely to reoffend but who can likely be managed through a regular sentence with a specific term of federal supervision in the community, to be given a long term offender supervision order of up to 10 years after their release from serving their original court imposed sentence. Once released, the offenders are subject to any number of supervisory conditions ordered by the National Parole Board.

There has been developing case law in the areas of both dangerous offenders and the long term offender designation. In September 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada held that a sentencing judge must consider fully the prospects of controlling an offender under a long term offender designation before a dangerous offender designation can be made. This is part of Regina v. Johnson. If the court had a reasonable belief the risk that the offender poses to the general public can be controlled under a long term offender designation, then the offender must be given the lesser sentence, even if he or she otherwise meets all criteria for a dangerous offender designation.

It is important to codify the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Regina v. Johnson. Reforms must ensure that offenders who should be designated as dangerous or long term offenders do not slip through the cracks of the judicial system, while at the same time the reforms must in no way violate the rights of fundamental justice ensured to all Canadians. To do so would have the unfortunate effect of being more messaging to a law and an order imperative of the current minority Conservative government rather than governing responsibly for all Canadians. Victims themselves will not be happy when they discover a flawed law, not a strong one.