Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was religious.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2006, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act February 24th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-283, a private member's bill. The bill touches all of us as members of Parliament and, indeed, as Canadians. All of us have heard the stories of individuals who purport to want to visit Canada but have trouble getting the necessary visa.

The bill before us today is essentially designed to help out in such cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed by allowing a Canadian or permanent resident to sponsor the applicant by posting a bond or guarantee.

The court challenges would likely come from many directions. Bill C-283 restricts access to the refugee determination process for this class of visitors, which could lead to violations of Canada's obligations under international law. It may also be contrary to section 7 in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which grants everyone on Canadian soil the right to life, liberty and the security of the person. On one level I therefore find it difficult to understand why we, as a group of responsible legislators, are debating this item.

Today, the mechanisms we have in place that allow foreign nationals to visit, allow Canadians to be reunited with their loved ones from overseas for a brief time or allow people to welcome business associates or other visitors all work very well.

Canada's visa offices routinely issue more than 500,000 temporary resident visas each year in addition to processing many other types of applications. By comparison, just 150,000 applications on average are rejected each year, suggesting there are likely compelling and good reasons for doing so.

The central premise behind Bill C-283 is that these failed applicants could and should be allowed to obtain visitors' visas on the strength of a bond or guarantee that would also ensure they comply with all the terms of their visa and leave, as promised, when it expires. I find this logic flawed, at best. At worst, it could result in a system with excessive administrative costs and complexities, few benefits and new court challenges, judicial reviews and charter cases.

Under the terms of Bill C-283, any Canadian or permanent resident over the age of 18 would be allowed to apply to sponsor a foreign national as a visitor to Canada by posting a bond or guarantee, a bond or guarantee in an amount yet to be determined. It applies to cases where an application for a temporary resident visa has failed within the previous year and the sponsor has not posted a bond for a foreign national who subsequently failed to comply with the conditions of their visa within the previous five years. Such a system would require security checks, financial auditing, identity checks, exit control systems and much more.

Past experience, moreover, clearly demonstrates that bonds are not an effective deterrent to flight in today's world of human smuggling and highly organized crime syndicates. For example, back in 1999, four boatloads of illegal immigrants arrived on the British Columbia coast from the Chinese province of Fujian. Most of the immigrants from the first boat were released after guarantors posted bonds to ensure they would report for the hearing process. All, and I repeat all, subsequently fled and forfeited their bonds. What is also interesting is that all the bond guarantors virtually disappeared and everybody was been left holding the bag. It is believed, and investigators suspect, that most made their way to the U.S. with the help of human smugglers.

There is a very interesting new introduction to this. It perhaps introduces a likely opportunity for criminal elements to involve themselves in getting into this business. They could create businesses, bonding agencies, that would allow them to provide these guarantees and the moneys to bring these people into the country.

If they disappear into the Canadian or North American climate, what happens to the individuals who put up the collateral, whether it was their houses, or their personal holdings, or even worse, indentured themselves for labour purposes or illegal opportunities, or even sold their daughters into prostitution or white slavery, is something that concerns us. The implications of this bonding scenario has wide-reaching impacts.

We on this side of the House fully support the idea of making it easier for legitimate visitors to come to this country and bask in the warmth of our Canadian hospitality. The mechanisms currently in place help us to ensure that this is done in a fair, sustainable and balanced way.

I and, I would assume, a number of members on my side of the House are therefore opposed to Bill C-283 or any special provision that runs counter to our legal obligations as well as these principles.

Contravention of the charter, likely court challenges, the possibilities of indentured sweatshop labour and even criminal involvement, and an immigration policy that may favour the rich or even criminal influences, is not something we want. Is this the type of legislation that our friends on the other side would like to have passed today? It has not been well thought out. In fact, it should not even go to second reading and to committee for consideration.

The Environment February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Kyoto protocol will take effect tomorrow. Can the Minister of the Environment advise the House why participation in the agreement will provide a major commercial benefit for Canada?

Quarantine Act February 10th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, prior to coming to the House, I put on hold an over 25 year involvement in laboratory medicine, both in a university and hospital setting. I am intrigued by the comments of the hon. member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

The question that prompts me, and it is probably a straight out question, is it the total legislation with which the hon. member has problems or are there some elements of it with which he has problems?

A lot of the emphasis he raises has been with regard to the potential fiscal penalties. Being actively involved in a clinical setting, the ramifications of the SARS epidemic, where I am located, were clearly felt to be within the broad sweep of that international gateway. We were very appreciative of the measures that were clearly imposed upon us by the federal government and the province of Ontario to mitigate the spread of that infectious disease. As a result, we instigated measures to reduce the impact.

Perhaps the hon. member is in a position to answer the question.

Pharmaceutical Industry February 7th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the issue of Internet pharmacies is front and centre in the news. It has been suggested that the health minister may introduce legislation to control their activities.

Could the Minister of Health assure Canadians that our drug supply, both retail and wholesale, will be protected if legislation is introduced?

Agriculture February 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the corn producers of my riding are economically threatened by the extremely low commodity prices in Ontario as compared to prices paid for U.S. imports and to other Canadian producers. They are in fact being paid less than their production costs.

Will the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food advise me as to what action may be taken to assist the corn producers of my riding so that they can realistically continue to grow their produce for all Canadians?

Conservative Party of Canada February 4th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the cracks in the Alliance Conservative Party are beginning to expand every day. Canadians are having confirmed what they suspected all along. This is not a real merger. Instead, the extreme social agenda of the Reform Alliance party is being imposed on the members of the Conservative Party.

Reports are coming in from across the country that the leader of the official opposition and his centralized office are forcing out moderates who refuse to adopt his radical social views. One former party executive in Toronto said that “ not being followed at all” under this Conservative leader.

In a February 4 Globe and Mail article, in New Brunswick the Conservative riding president in Moncton says there is an obsession by the party leadership to “have the ridings operate more or less by remote control by Ottawa...”.

The backlash to this centralized control was apparent when the Leader of the Opposition recently went to a GTA Conservative meeting and was heckled by his own members. Only this leader would be this out of touch with what--

Income Tax Act February 3rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill put forward by the hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

The bill would exempt from tax, on an annual basis, up to $8,000 received by an athlete from a non-profit organization to the extent that the organization is operated exclusively for the purpose of promoting amateur athletics.

I understand why the hon. member has put the bill forward and I understand the specific issue he is trying to address. What I do not understand is how the hon. member could possibly think the bill would address his concern.

Although the proposition may sound attractive, it is the government's position that this is not the right way to enhance government support of athletics in Canada. For this reason and for other reasons on which I will elaborate further, the government does not support the bill. I also recommend that hon. members of the House not support the bill.

Granting an exemption under the tax system is not the right approach to enhance government support of athletics in Canada. It would be easy to say that leaving more money in the pockets of athletes will help them somehow. This can be said for any group of taxpayers. However, the question must be asked, is there a better way to achieve the same goal?

Promotion of athletics in Canada is not done best by helping those athletes who receive compensation, but by creating infrastructure and supporting the governmental and non-governmental organizations that support all our athletes.

The exemption in the bill would call into question the allocation of the tax burden and the justification for such allocation under the current tax system. The government uses the tax system to raise revenues and tax policy provides justification for distributing the tax burden among all taxpayers based on economic, social and political considerations or based on fairness or equity.

In this regard, it is the basic premise of our tax system that similarly situated taxpayers should be taxed similarly, regardless of their source of income. Thus, although the tax system categorizes income on the basis of its source, the income from the various sources are pulled together and a graduated tax rate is applied. For instance, an individual earning employment income is taxed at the same rate as someone earning income from an office or business.

The bill proposes to exempt part of an athlete's income from tax in order to show support for amateur athletics in Canada. It aims at differentiating income received by an athlete from a non-governmental organization from, say, income received by a waitress from her employer. Would it be fair to say to the waitress that her income is fully taxable and give an exemption to athletes? Is income not the same? Is income not income, no matter where it is coming from? To give athletes an exemption is not fair to other hardworking Canadians who, day in and day out, go to work and pay their fair share of taxes.

In addition, in our opinion the wording of the bill is flawed. The bill, as drafted, would open the door to abuse because it is easy to set up a non-profit organization and because anyone participating in sport or fitness activities could be considered an athlete. Any individual could argue that they qualify for this relief simply because of their physical condition or involvement in athletic activities. Indeed, the bill does not provide the basis for differentiating athletes from non-athletes.

Also, it would be easy for professional sports teams to set up non-professional, non-profit organizations in order to extend the exemption provided under the bill to professional athletes.

The proposed cap on the amount of eligible income would limit, but not eliminate, this potential problem. The ease by which the intent of the bill could be circumvented strongly undermines its validity. The bill proposed by the Conservative member would make exempt for tax purposes annually up to $8,000 received by an athlete from a non-profit organization operated exclusively for the purpose of improving athletic performances and promoting amateur athletics.

As I have explained, there is simply no basis for granting athletes this exemption. There is no reason to believe that this is the best way to help promote amateur sports in Canada. There is no answer to those other hardworking Canadians who must pay tax on all of their income. Finally, there is no justification to enact into law a bill that could be so easily abused. For those reasons the bill should not receive the support of the House.

Peace Research Institute December 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, the Peace Research Institute in Dundas, Ontario was founded in 1976 by Dr. Hanna Newcombe and the late Dr. Alan Newcombe.

For three decades, during times of great change in the world, the private non-profit organization dedicated its efforts to international peace advocacy and research. The institute conducted and published peace research in the anticipation that the presentation of facts may drive out myth and lay the foundation for a new society and a new humanity.

Hanna Newcombe is now in her mid-eighties and legally blind. Thus the Peace Research Institute is closing down. Hanna herself, however, insists that she will continue to work for peace.

I extend congratulations to Dr. Newcombe for a vocation well spent.

Violence Against Women December 6th, 2004

Madam Speaker, today, December 6, is Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This commemoration reminds us of the alarming rates of violence against women in our society. A failure to acknowledge this tough reality constitutes a failure to commit to its end.

A 1999 Statistics Canada survey found that after dark two-thirds of women feel unsafe while awaiting or using public transit and 18% of women do not feel safe in their own neighbourhoods.

Today and every day we must take time to reflect on the lived reality of fear that haunts most women's lives.

This reality affects us all, regardless of our age, gender or life circumstances. It affects our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our friends, neighbours and colleagues.

We can end the violence. We must first acknowledge it exists, then refuse to remain silent, and finally, work together to end the violence once and for all.

David Vienneau December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to advise the House that Parliament has lost a friend, a personal acquaintance from my hometown of Dundas. David Vienneau, a distinguished journalist, has passed away.

On your behalf, Mr. Speaker, and on behalf of members of the House, I offer my condolences to David's wife Nicki and his family.

David will be missed by his many friends and colleagues and by all the people who have been associated with this, our national House, over the years. David was respected, admired and liked in both Houses and by all sides for his buoyant spirit, his relentless drive, his fairness and his humanity.

As a journalist covering national affairs for more than two decades with the Toronto Star and lately as bureau chief of Global Television, David knew everyone from prime ministers to the cleaning staff of the House of Commons. It was one of the elements that made David an outstanding journalist.

Journalism was only part of David's rich life. He loved sports and was a good athlete. He was an avid squash player and golfer, often having matches with members of the House.

Today we mark his passing. It is a sad day, but we are also grateful to have been in the company of this remarkable man.