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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was border.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Newmarket—Aurora (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Agriculture October 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to an issue of grave concern and even business survival for many Canadians, but also one that affects all of us in every part of this country. I include my own riding of Newmarket--Aurora where there are few beef producers but many beef consumers.

The use of the term BSE in referring to one very specific disease does not capture the full impact and range of this crisis. This is a collapse in the trading system with our largest trading partner. It has caused great hardship for cattlemen and farmers in the first place, but also many others who make a living serving this proud and important industry. The meat processors, the truckers who move cattle, and the customs brokers are examples.

We cannot forget that the ranchers and the farmers are traders and exporters too. The impact on their livelihoods has been devastating. In one year alone since the Canada-U.S. border was slammed shut to Canadian cattle, beef and ruminants in May 2003, the industry has lost over $2 billion and the losses mount.

In the heartland of the cattle industry, Alberta, the figures are stark. Here the United States is the market for every single head of non-purebred cattle. Revenues fell immediately by 36% with the border closure. On average, 1,000 head of Alberta non-purebred cattle crossed the border each and every day before May 20, 2003, but that stopped overnight.

We know what is at stake, but what is the problem behind the closure of the border? There are various aspects.

In Canada we speak often and loosely of American protectionism. There are clearly protectionist pressures in the United States, most evident in parts of the Congress. Trade is a very politicized issue south of the border especially in an election year, but the United States as a country is not protectionist. There are other strong voices in support of free trade and the administration itself is not protectionist by policy.

To make progress on the border, we need to understand the complex politics of trade in the United States and be more careful about how we define the problem.

Ironically, one judge in one state, Montana, set in train the fiasco we have before us today. The threat is always there of renewed litigation by a small industry lobby group which is protectionist to the extreme. The strategy for reopening the border over the longer term must take into account this reality and include a legal dimension.

The cattle and beef industry is one of the most integrated sectors across the border. A head of cattle can move back and forth across the border several times in its lifetime in different phases of the supply chain. This is why the Canadian cattlemen and farmers have so many allies among their associates and friends south of the border, which makes the border closure so galling for them.

Business in general has been moving steadily toward greater cross-border integration regardless of what government does. The BSE crisis is defining the need for governments to catch up to business in terms of policy and regulation. I believe that this is one of the emerging challenges of the trade relationship.

The U.S. dimension of this crisis is even more important than the huge volume of lost trade might suggest. The country can spend money on developing new world markets and should in a smart, targeted way, but we must know that many of these markets will not open to our production while the United States remains closed, so there is a multiplier effect in the damage.

We need to convince the U.S. government to inoculate the cattle and beef industry from the ravages of rogue use of the ports to circumvent trade policy. Where is the government's strategy on doing this? We probably need a new and open-eyed look at the dispute settlement laws and mechanisms. Canada has suppressed this process. The Americans are preoccupied elsewhere and unlikely to show leadership in any aspect of the bilateral trading relationship, but history has shown that they will listen when presented with plans that also serve to advance their interests.

The border is held hostage to political will. The U.S. administration needs to know that it will have the political cover to confront legal challenges to free trade.

Our government must contribute by helping to build political constituencies in the United States in support of our cattlemen and farmers. It needs to take the lead in coordinating with the provinces to use local and regional cross-border groupings to consolidate support. It needs to assure Canadians that no stone is left unturned in building support throughout the U.S. economy and society.

The Minister for International Trade and his colleagues should be in the United States, in the states where most support exists for free cattle trade, building alliances to allow Washington to better confront the political pressures of protectionism.

In the interest of openness, the government should publish a record of its interventions with American authorities at all levels to show ranchers and farmers, truck drivers and all Canadians just how active they are in pressing for a solution.

I appreciated the opportunity to speak to this important national trade issue this evening.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in the York region, Newmarket—Aurora, the population has grown immensely and along with that come a number of issues. Infrastructure problems are of great concern in our area. The people in my riding are waiting to see what the government will do. Will it follow through on its commitments to provide another GO transit line to the people of Newmarket—Aurora so they can commute into the city. The lineups are long and the times of the GO trains are inconvenient for people. We need to invest in infrastructure to ensure the transportation systems are there to meet the needs of the citizens.

Some of the other issues are public safety and crime. While the community of Newmarket—Aurora is safe at this moment, we need to take steps to ensure it stays that way. Surrounding this community we have problems of grow ops, of youth violence and gangs, and we need to address that going forward.

A third issue in the riding of Newmarket—Aurora would be to have an adequate health care system. People right now are waiting approximately a year for orthopedic surgery. I have had conversations with many health care practitioners who deliver these services and they are not so optimistic at this point in time that the recent introduction of more funds to the provinces will actually go to our local hospital to be able to shorten wait times and bring the resources that are needed to this growing community.

Those are some of the issues that I have head about, but a big overriding issue is the fact that people are just having a hard time making ends meet. During the election when I knocked on doors I heard that while accountability was the number one overriding issue, I also heard that people just cannot make ends meet any more. They are looking for tax relief so they have enough money in their pockets.

The hon. member also asked about trade priorities. Rebuilding our relationship with the United States should be our number one priority. It is our big customer. An important point to focus on within that is the border. We must have an efficient flow of goods to and from the border. The U.S. has said that security trumps trade. I believe we need to focus on ensuring that there is a zone of confidence, both from a security standpoint to protect the citizens of Canada and the U.S., but also from an economic standpoint.

Foreign direct investment is on the decline in Canada and there are a number of reasons for that. One of the reasons is that we have not been able provide that zone of confidence that there will be a border that is dependable. John Manley started the smart border initiative but there is much work to be done.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, it is the role and responsibility of the opposition to ask the appropriate questions. Is the government doing its proper due diligence to satisfy the people of Canada that the appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that this state-owned entity, which may purchase Noranda and Falconbridge, will abide by the laws that govern this country? It is the responsibility of the government to do so.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply October 8th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

It is with a great sense of honour that I rise to offer my response to the throne speech on behalf of the people of Newmarket—Aurora. I was born, raised and went to high school in either one of those communities. I chose to stay and make my living and raise my children there.

There is great history in that part of Ontario, going back over 200 years, and both communities share the challenge of embracing growth while maintaining the unique heritage of the area. More than 50% of the population has moved from somewhere else, making Newmarket and Aurora very dynamic communities.

These are some of the reasons why I am so proud and I am humbled that my fellow citizens of Newmarket—Aurora put their trust in me to represent them and to protect their interests.

I listened carefully to the throne speech last Tuesday afternoon and felt the excitement of hearing it for the first time in Parliament itself. But there was nothing that I had not heard before and in fact several times before, over many years, in various forms.

If the throne speech was supposed to be a showcase of new vision, this government is flying blind. Also, if someone has to keep repeating a promise, that means it is not getting done. Where I come from, both in my family and in my former work experience, this would suggest that there was never any serious intention of doing it anyway.

I will not take the precious time of the House discussing grand words and promises that have been largely abandoned over the past decade by different generations of this government.

The key test will come with the spending estimates that have been delivered this morning. Now we will get a glimpse of the government's real priorities, and I use the verb “glimpse” on purpose, because even the allocation of moneys does not mean that they will be spent well or spent at all.

On the question of trade, the throne speech covered familiar ground and offered no new ideas. Of course we need to find solutions to softwood and BSE and pursue multilateral trade talks on agriculture, but the throne speech lacked recognition of the critical importance of trade to this country. Trade is not about abstract numbers. It is about sustaining our quality of life. Trade is our lifeblood. Canada is still the country most dependent on trade among our G-8 counterparts.

When the Canada-U.S. border closed to Canadian cattle, beef and other ruminants in May 2003 because of one case of BSE, it was an example of the collapse of the trading system with our largest trading partner.

The losses and hardship to the industry have been devastating, but the throne speech provides no direction about a strategic approach on how to reconstruct the trading relationship to prevent these problems in the future. After losing more than $2 billion since the border slammed shut, individual Canadian cattlemen and farmers received an honourable mention in the throne speech.

It is the Conservative Party that has called for two separate nights of debate on BSE, which started last night and will continue on Tuesday.

The throne speech talks about rebuilding our relationship with the United States. My question is, why would a Canadian government ever have to use such language in a throne speech? The answer, of course, is that the very same government in its different generations had already damaged, harmed and whittled away at that relationship. Usually governments claim to have to fix the sins of their opponents, not their own past.

That relationship with the United States is of such bedrock importance to Canada that I cannot understand the way it is treated, even by members of the government party. The first step is to understand the way Americans think and act, not the way we would like them to think and act. We need a more sophisticated understanding of the volatile domestic politics of trade in the United States, not to agree with them but to better advance our own interests. It takes political leadership to set aside the politically convenient rhetoric of anti-Americanism.

The throne speech painted too rosy a picture of Canadian economic performance. Exports are down and the border problems continue to drive up costs to Canadian businesses and drive away investment in Canada. The Conference Board of Canada classified our productivity performance among all OECD countries as mediocre.

Canada is under future pressure from emerging markets like China and India. A recent U.S. report suggested that China might surpass Canada as the largest trading partner of the United States within five years. If this came to pass it would be a historic economic realignment, the full implications of which we could not predict.

The role of government in providing the right environment for Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to be the most competitive possible in a fierce global marketplace is at the centre of my interests and those of the Conservative Party. This environment includes tax structures and support for research and development, but more important, a fix for our education and training systems to ensure that we have the skilled and knowledgeable workforce the country needs to sustain our quality of life.

Ever mindful of federal and provincial jurisdictions and of the importance of quality health care, I believe that our post-secondary education system has long been neglected. It is the poor distant cousin of public policy, and we need to look at this. If we have to wait four throne speeches more to see significant progress on these issues, I am afraid the people of Newmarket--Aurora and the country will pay a huge price in the decline of our quality of life.

The reason I decided to enter public life was to do everything in my power to help sustain that quality of life, because the community where I live and this country have been good to me and good to my family.

Trade October 6th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, my first time addressing this distinguished House, on behalf of the remarkable people of Newmarket and Aurora.

Yesterday we learned the broad lines of the Liberals' priorities. The language sounded so familiar and it paled when compared to what has actually been done over the past 10 years.

I am looking ahead now to the allocation of adequate resources and strategic planning. When the spending estimates are presented soon, then Canadians can judge whether the grand words of the throne speech are real or not.

Trade is not about abstract numbers, but rather about quality of life. It is our lifeblood. The throne speech yesterday described the status quo and the status quo is not good enough. Border delays are still a major problem, exports are falling, and Canada's productivity is judged mediocre.

There is no indication that trade will be given the resources it needs from the government. It then ceases to be a priority and the country will pay the price.