Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was budget.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek (Ontario)

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

Statements in the House

Borrowing Authority Act, 1996-97 March 21st, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-10. In concert with the 1994-95 budget, the 1996 budget continues a comprehensive strategy for federal finances that is determined, measured and responsible.

Jobs and economic growth are the priority of every G-7 nation and certainly are the priority in Canada. Our government was elected on a jobs and growth platform and it has spent the last two and one-half years trying to meet those goals. To meet the objectives of jobs and growth we had to make some tough decisions. The 1996 budget stays the course on deficit fighting and we have made those tough decisions.

As a federal government we need to strike a balance between reducing those deficits in a prudent and measured way while not hurting those most in need. One only has to look at the reaction of the people of Ontario recently to understand that the Tories' slash and burn approach does not work and it is an approach that this government will never emulate.

Listen to some of the comments. John McCallum, chief economist at the Royal Bank said that the Minister of Finance "has struck a good balance between on the one hand having to get the deficit down and on the other hand not inflicting real damage on a struggling economy. I think the course is being steered quite well".

The president of the Quebec Chamber of Commerce stated that the budget gives a positive signal to financial markets and it is felt that the minister will deliver what he promised by cutting the deficit. This is quite contrary to what is being said by the Bloc members across the way who say: "Please, please let us go". Let us remember that Canadians live in Quebec and they have said: "We want to stay in Canada and we will do everything possible to ensure that this country remains united".

In the past 27 months the most common theme I have heard is action. Action is needed. Canadians know that government cannot be all things to all people. They do expect government to spend taxpayers' dollars prudently and to ensure a better future for their children. We will provide that future. We will achieve this through our determination. We are not letting up.

As the Minister of Finance stated, the attack on the deficit is irrevocable and irreversible. We will balance the books. Furthermore we will put the debt to GDP ratio on a constant downward track year after year after year.

Our fiscal action plan is measured; it is not indiscriminate, it is not mindless but it is structured by a pace that is conducive to adaptation. It is not designed to be a quick fix, but it is designed to achieve long term and permanent progress. It is also responsible because it is a strategy that involves carefully weighing the needs of our economy and our society, and equally carefully designing the policy options to meet those needs. Clearly our fiscal house is getting in order. We need to do that to sustain jobs and growth over the long term.

Many in my riding of Lincoln are involved in the small business community. I believe that this budget sends very strong signals, a signal that this government is committed to promoting and enhancing small business. The economic recovery of this country is based on the growth of that small and medium size business sector.

We need to get the fundamentals right. The lethal combination of high interest rates and deficit borrowing meant a growing share of government resources were going to servicing interest payments on our growing debt. This year those charges will cost the government some $47 billion, money that cannot go to lowering the taxes, aiding those in need or helping the economy create those new jobs.

The first budget in 1994 set the course for our fiscal house so that we could create that environment for jobs and growth. In 1995-96 we stayed the course.

It is worth looking at what signals this budget is sending to small business in my community of Lincoln and across the country. The budget recognizes that the role of government is to provide the private sector with a framework for growth. Our budget to date has reflected our fiscal and economic policies of getting interest rates down, of keeping inflation low and of cutting the burden of deficits in order to create that climate.

The budget also announced initiatives to encourage technology and innovation. The Minister of Industry recently released the science and technology package which will form the basis of Canada's global competitiveness in the 21st century.

Again no one is suggesting that this budget or the last two budgets are the panacea for the Canadian economy. However, I think we can all agree that we are certainly on the right track. I can say that with full confidence because just last week I had the pleasure of participating in the opening of the Cosella Dorken plant, a joint venture between Canadian and German companies in Beamsville. It is an innovative company that is poised for growth and export.

Locally, I see the impact of getting the fundamentals right, of getting lower interest rates, of getting low inflation and of cutting the deficits. At the end of the day, tackling Canada's fiscal problem is not the goal in and of itself. Rather it is a fundamental component of our objectives of national growth, new jobs and economic security.

We will continue to set credible, two year rolling deficit targets by using prudent economic assumptions for fiscal planning purposes and by establishing contingency reserves. Credibility is being restored to the nation's finances. We have maintained our focus on reducing program spending because the debt is a problem created by government. We all know that. The solution should focus on cutting in our own backyard.

There are no new tax increases in this budget, not in personal taxes, corporate taxes or excise taxes. Constituents of Lincoln feel confident that this government is listening when they say they are overtaxed and it does not increase taxes.

My constituents are pleased with the direction our government has taken. They are confident that by staying the course and continuing to be sensitive to those most in need Canada can continue to be a model to all the world as a country where fiscal soundness, a competitive environment and social responsibility are not mutually exclusive but rather are all interconnected.

The job before us is clear. It is to build on the progress we have made, to see it translated into good jobs, sustained growth and social programs suited to the millennium that lies ahead.

Pre-Budget Consultations December 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, on November 28 I had the pleasure of hosting another workshop, this one a pre-budget consultation in my riding of Lincoln. Many constituents felt that the government had taken decisive action in prior budgets but we need to stay the course. However, the reduction in government spending must not be done in the slash and burn fashion of Mike Harris.

Three major themes were developed and discussed: unemployment and job creation, concerns of small business, and debt and deficit. I am pleased to state that progress has occurred in all three areas.

The Minister of Human Resources Development introduced employment insurance programs. The Minister of Industry's Bill C-99, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act, will continue to provide access to debt capital for small businesses that need it to expand and to create jobs.

Last week the Minister of Finance stated that the deficit for the 1997-98 fiscal year will be brought down to 2 per cent of GDP. The goal is to eliminate the deficit based on a measured and responsible strategy.

I would like to thank my constituents for participating in the workshop. It is through this type of forum that constituents views will be heard.

Protection Of Personal Information Obtained By Certain Corporations Act December 12th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the issue of the protection of personal privacy. It is an issue with which we are confronted every time we open a newspaper or turn on a television. It is entirely appropriate that our laws be revisited on this subject.

When we brought in the current federal Privacy Act in 1982, it was decided that we should address the issue of personal information held by government first, so the act only applied to federal holdings. When the provinces passed their bills they did the same.

It is now time to revisit the issue. The work is well in progress. When the Minister of Industry set up the Information Highway Advisory Council to advise him, he stipulated that privacy be considered as one of the four operating principles. The council was set up to advise the minister on how Canada should meet the challenge and opportunities ahead of us in the global networks of the future.

Industry Canada released a discussion paper to sound out public opinion to see what the Canadian public and Canadian business wanted to see. The response was overwhelming in its recognition of the problem. Consumers and industry did not necessarily agree on the solution, with business pushing for voluntary codes, with most stressing the good work done on the Canadian Standards Association model code, and with consumers demanding that government act and legislate.

The Information Highway Advisory Council combined these two comments and recommended framework legislation based on the CSA standard. The Canadian Direct Marketing Association has added its voice to the debate, calling on the Minister of Industry to table framework legislation based on the CSA standard, and urged the provinces to do likewise in their jurisdictions.

This is the kind of flexible compromise position that is good for business and good for consumers. Business wants to be involved in crafting of marketplace rules and so do consumers. We should recognize this and work on the basis of the consensus that has been built around the CSA model privacy code, soon to be published as a national standard by the Standards Council of Canada.

There is no way that Bill C-315 however worthy in its intentions could be confused as a piece of framework legislation. I am afraid that it falls short of what we need. However the debate that we have had here in the House, thanks to the hon. member of the Reform Party who tabled this bill and so ably defended it, has been a very useful introduction to what promises to be an important and complex issue when it comes before the House.

I recommend that we urge the minister to return to us and report on the progress that has been made. I look forward to that and to the opportunity to bring about the kind of broad based protection for personal information that Canadians are expecting of this government.

Small Business Loans Act October 25th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the subject of Bill C-99, the act to amend the Small Business Loans Act.

I will make some comments a little later on entrepreneurs because they are really the heroes of Canada. I echo the comments made by an earlier speaker that entrepreneurs are really the basis of what makes up the country. We need to create the climate to encourage entrepreneurship.

My colleagues have spoken at length about the specifics of this bill but I will talk about how the amendments to the Small Business Loans Act fit into the federal government's plan to create a climate for business growth in Canada.

It is often said a business plan is only as good as the economic foundations on which it is built. The federal government has targeted the national debt as the number one impediment to business growth. That is why last February the Minister of Finance introduced a budget that will cut $29 billion over the next three years, the largest set of budget cuts since Canada demobilized after the second world war.

We also undertook at the same time a thorough review of federal government administration and spending in the non-social program area. The objectives were to get government right, to ensure taxpayers were getting value for money and to encourage Canadians toward building a more innovative economy.

The result of this has been a major change in our approach to sector development in industry and in the role and function of the industry department. It is obvious old style industrial development strategies are no longer workable. Some might argue they never were, but our goal as a government is not to affix blame for the past but to set a course for the future.

The challenges for government, for Industry Canada in particular, are to help small business compete and to promote a business environment that will lead to job creation, a competitive economy that is a thriving economy, one that will take Canada to its rightful place in the global economy.

Small and medium size businesses are leading the way in terms of innovation and job creation, there is no question. I meet with constituents regularly, small business people and entrepreneurs who come to the constituency office and share their ideas and their enthusiasm to create employment and make Canada a better place to live.

During the 1980s in Canada small and medium size businesses were responsible for 87 per cent of all new jobs created. Since the last recession they have accounted for over 90 per cent of the net new jobs created. On average about 300,000 firms or self-employed entrepreneurs have started a business every year for the past 10 years. SMEs account for almost two-thirds of the private sector employment.

The main thrust of government support in industry must be small business, I think we are all in agreement in the House. Small business has a major role to play in reducing unemployment. Despite the fact that small business is clearly the way of the future in Canada, there are still too many impediments to SMEs truly coming into their own. One of our priorities is to reduce or eliminate those impediments wherever possible.

A fundamental impediment is the access to adequate financing. The banks explained to us on the industry committee the improvements they are making in this area. Entrepreneurs and small business owners stated the difficulties they are having accessing capital. It is crucial for us to deal with this issue. The availability of capital has been a source of frustration, no question.

SBLA loans have played an integral part in helping small businesses gain access to capital needed for start-ups, expansion and growth. The program's success both as an economic development tool and as an example of public sector-private sector co-operation has inspired similar government programs at both the federal and provincial levels.

Since 1961 more than 420,000 SBLA loans, totalling over $15.5 billion, have been made to small business. Virtually every small business in Canada is now eligible to borrow under the SBLA program providing that its annual gross revenues do not exceed $5 million. We are targeting the small business sector.

In recent years the SBLA program has been running at an annual government cost of $20 million to $30 million. However, following a significant program change effective April 1, 1993 the annual

lending activity increased from $500 million to $2.5 billion in 1993-94 and to over $4 billion in 1994-95.

Assuming a continuation of the historical loss rate, this meant the annual program costs would increase by over $100 million. Clearly this was a threat to the sustainability of the program.

The potential cost of the program and the government's overall need for deficit control required that the program be brought to full cost recovery. With respect to full cost recovery, it is interesting to note that the users of this program both on the small business side and the lenders side, the parties that have been consulted, support the move to cost recovery.

Through the consultation period the government has asked for input on the changes to the program and it is reflected in what we are seeing here today.

Recommendations of the industry committee and the small business working committee were also taken into account. All stakeholders supported the move to full cost recovery. Two major changes were made through regulatory amendments with an effective implementation date of April 1, 1995.

First, a new 1.25 per cent annual administration fee is being charged on each lender's average outstanding balance of SBLA loans made after March 31, 1995. Second, the maximum interest rate that a lender can charge under the program has been increased by 1.25 per cent to prime plus 3 per cent for floating rate loans and to the residential mortgage rate plus 3 per cent for fixed rate loans.

To complete the move to full cost recovery and improve the administration of the program, other changes are now being made by Bill C-99. These proposed changes will allow the release of security, including personal guarantees, improve the government guarantee coverage for small lenders, and provide for the introduction of a government processing fee on lenders' claims.

To add flexibility to the program and permit the easier fine tuning, parliamentary approval is being sought so that future changes to the level of government guarantee can be implemented through the regulatory rather than the legislative process.

It was stated earlier that the one change the third party would recommend is an amendment to this part of the bill. In the consultations I have had with small business, one of the criticisms it has had of government policy is that government is often unable to react quickly when a situation changes.

Business groups have often asked for greater flexibility to deal with these issues and it is exactly that which this part of the bill is reacting to, adding the flexibility to the program and permitting the easier fine tuning.

These changes also mean that the SBLA will be better targeted toward small businesses that really need its help. An estimated 30 per cent to 40 per cent of SBLA loans go to businesses able to access normal commercial financing.

After the changes financially strong businesses will switch to lower cost commercial financing. During the consultations small businesses told us repeatedly that the primary issue is access to capital and not the cost of financing.

When I meet with entrepreneurs in my community, as we all do as members of Parliament, they are looking the opportunity, the chance to make their idea work. They appeared before the industry committee. They have met with their members of Parliament. The message is getting through. By making this change we will be targeting the SBLA program at start-up companies and companies in the expansion mode that need capital.

During the consultations small businesses told us that making the SBLA self-sustaining will ensure continued access. We agree with that.

We have been told repeatedly, I am sure the third party would agree, that the best thing government can do for business, large and small, is to get the deficit under control. The proposed changes to the SBLA are a step in that direction. The proposed changes will ensure it remains an effective and viable instrument of support for small business in Canada. It will certainly remain an integral element of our comprehensive plan to create a business climate which will enable Canadian small business to grow and create jobs in the global economy.

The objective of the bill is to continue the process of the modernization and improvement of small business. The proposed changes relieve Canadian taxpayers of the financial burden of the program. We have been asked to do that.

Small business created 90 per cent of new jobs in 1994. The government has placed support for small business at the top of its agenda for jobs and growth.

It is crucial that we continue to bring forward bills which will help to create a climate that will encourage entrepreneurs to continue to dream and create their own companies. They will help Canada by creating employment. That is the thrust of the bill. We must convince the banks that small business people and entrepreneurs are the cornerstone of our economy; they are our future.

This and the other bills the government has brought forward are the end result of the consultation process. We have gone to the stakeholders and we have asked for their input. They have given us direction. This bill reflects that direction. It is also the result of what we have been doing in the standing committee.

We are moving in the right direction as we continue to improve access to capital for small business and encourage entrepreneurs to go forward and do what they do best, create their own small businesses, improve the economic climate and encourage other individuals to do the same. I ask all members of the House to support the bill.

Petitions September 20th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my honour to table on behalf of the constituents of Hamilton East and my own constituents of Lincoln a petition calling on Parliament to ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and that Parliament make no changes in the law which would sanction or allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or of active or passive euthanasia.

Battle Of Stoney Creek June 13th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, recently I attended the annual Stoney Creek battle re-enactment in my riding of Lincoln. For all of us the war of 1812 was a war we learned about in history books. There are no pictures, videos or films of the battle.

Therefore the annual re-enactment of the battle of Stoney Creek takes on an even greater significance, not only as an educational experience but more important it portrays the realities of war and the struggles suffered by our countrymen.

Many who attended the re-enactment voiced their concern over provisions of Bill C-68 which might jeopardize future re-enactments. The British North America Living History Association presented a brief to the Standing Committee on Justice. I am sure committee members have taken into consideration the points made to ensure re-enactments can continue unobstructed.

The Stoney Creek battle re-enactment is a community event and a source of pride for the city. The quality and performance of the re-enactment has earned Stoney Creek praise throughout North America. Let us not lose the opportunity to continue to provide-

Petitions June 6th, 1995

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing order 36, I am presenting a petition signed by constituents in my riding of Lincoln asking that Parliament oppose any amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms which provide for the inclusion of the phrase sexual orientation.

They also oppose the inclusion of this phrase in proposed Bill C-41.

Petitions May 17th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am presenting a petition signed by 250 constituents in my riding of Lincoln asking Parliament not to amend the Canadian human rights code to extend spousal benefits to same sex partners.

Lobbyists Registration Act April 25th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-43.

I had the opportunity to sit on committee and participate in the discussions. The committee was very successful in putting forward a number of amendments that reflect what witnesses had communicated to it. The disclosure of grassroots lobbying and the disclosure of government funding for associations are just two of the many amendments which have been put forward with respect to Bill C-43.

Specifically on Motion No. 19, section 8 as it exists in our present legislation reads: "The Registrar General of Canada may designate any person employed in the office of the Registrar General of Canada as the registrar for the purposes of this act". Motion No. 19 attempts to amend that with the following: "The governor in council may designate any person as the registrar for the purposes of this act".

As the bill reads today, the registrar general is able to appoint a person that is employed in his office, a public servant. That public servant is bound by codes of conduct, Public Service Commission rules, Treasury Board, all of those provisions which ensure there is no political influence. There was no evidence in committee that political pressure had been exerted on this official, nor that the nature of the duties involved would make this likely. If these duties justify parliamentary appoint-

ment in order to ensure the independence of the registrar, then countless other government officials should also be made independent.

I wonder whether the hon. member with the intent put forward in this motion realizes that it already exists. There are provisions in the registration act where if we appoint a public servant, as is the present provision, that public servant is independent of any political pressure as the hon. member is alluding to because of the code of conduct that individual is bound by as a public servant. I am struggling with the intent of the motion. The opposition party did bring out a point which supported the fact that we would be unable to support this amendment.

I will comment briefly, as other members have done, on how the committee functioned. The new structure in committee gives members of Parliament a great opportunity to affect legislation. We were able to do that with this bill by putting forward 13 amendments. We can make changes and provide input which reflects what the witnesses asked us to do.

There will now be a legal obligation for lobbyists to comply with the code of conduct and explicit authority for the registrar of lobbyists to issue interpretation bulletins. These are all things that improve the transparency and improve how the bill and its application will function.

Let us look at the comments made earlier on how the intent of the bill was to improve transparency and the statement by the opposition parties that we are not doing that, we are not going far enough. Let us just take a moment to look at what we have done thus far.

The ethics counsellor who has been appointed will develop the code of conduct for lobbyists. As I said earlier, there is a legal obligation to comply. In keeping with the spirit of increased powers for MPs, we will have the ability to review the code of conduct by the parliamentary committee.

The ethics counsellor can investigate breaches of that code and submit a detailed report of each investigation to Parliament. This report can now include fees and disbursements that were paid. These are all things that lend to the transparency of how government works. Bill C-43 goes a long way in improving the transparency.

With respect to Motion No. 19, the assumption behind the motion is that the registrar is vulnerable to political pressures. I find the arguments somewhat confused because the registrar, as stated by the Bloc in an earlier comment, is responsible for the administration of the lobbyists registry. As I said earlier, there is and was not any evidence in committee that political pressure had been exerted on this official.

If we defeat this motion, as I hope the House will do, we will maintain in the bill the ability of the Registrar General of Canada to designate that public servant who is bound by the public service code of conduct to perform the duties required.

What did the committee do? The committee did strengthen the powers of the registrar. The person will have the formal authority to audit the information contained in any return or document submitted and to issue interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions. We have strengthened that position. We have done so to allow the bill to work more effectively and to allow for that transparency.

In summary, the registrar will have the authority necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the act. I hope that we will defeat Motion No. 19.

Agriculture April 4th, 1995

Mr. Speaker, farmers and companies in the agri-food sector in my constituency of Lincoln recognize the change taking place in the Canadian agricultural sector, in particular the need to expand our export markets.

Canadian farmers are looking to this government to ensure international agricultural trade reaches the $20-billion level by the year 2000.

Will the minister of agriculture explain what tangible results Canadian farmers and the agri-food sector expect from his recent visit to Chile, Argentina and Brazil?