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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Kitchener—Waterloo (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in terms of dealing with the numbers, an important concept for us to understand is that we let in about 250,000 immigrants a year. About 300,000 to 400,000 people wishing to come to Canada make application. As long as we have a mismatch between the number of people wishing to come here and the number of people we actually let in, we will have a growing backlog.

Last year the government said that it brought in 430,000 newcomers to Canada. If all those people coming into Canada were immigrants that would have helped to deal with the backlog. However, the problem was that about 190,000 of them were people with temporary status, about two-thirds of them were temporary foreign workers and one-third of them were foreign students. Had we applied the whole 430,000 to deal with the backlog, we would have made a dent. Instead, we have bumped up the numbers by close to 100,000 people in terms of the backlog itself, even though we brought in an extra 190,000 people.

I agree with my colleague across the way. This is really dangerous. Will Canada become a country of temporary foreign workers or will we bring in people who will make an investment and help us build a country? Will we be bringing in temporary foreign workers, the ones on the lower end who are in a virtually indentured situation, a servitude situation where if they step out of line they will get booted out of the country, or will we bring in people who have many skills? For those lower skilled workers, however, the government is proposing to give them temporary permits so they cannot apply for landed status. Does my colleague have a comment on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I have made representations of those kinds. Whether they succeed or do not succeed will be obvious when we vote on the bill.

Also, the Liberal Party does not have the same kind of luxury as the New Democratic Party or the Bloc have in not being the official opposition. If we vote against the legislation, we know there will be an election and that is a determination for the leader to make.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the member says that he does not agree with what I said, but what I said was pretty well true as the message relates to the immigration system. I am sure if my colleague across the way heard all I said and if we could be involved in a dialogue, I am sure he would agree with me.

I voted along with my colleagues on the citizenship and immigration committee against Bill C-50. I voted for the report. I expect I will do that again.

My positioning in the House, where I stand and sit, is exactly because I have voted the way I said I would on particular issues.

If some of my colleagues engage in strategic voting, then I guess the determination has been made by my party that they do not want to trigger an election on this issue because they think there is a more appropriate issue on which to trigger an election. I am really mindful and concerned of the political games that the government has been playing with this issue.

As soon as Bill C-50 came down, and I have said it publicly and in the press, I said that the government was looking to do a little immigrant bashing. The Conservatives saw what happened in the province of Quebec in the last provincial election. They saw the position advanced by the ADQ. They also saw the reaction to the reasonable accommodation debate in the province of Quebec. I believe the government made a conscious decision not to deal with legislation on immigration, but to take advantage of those feelings, hoping that it might win it a few more seats.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008 June 2nd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to engage in the debate on Bill C-50. I will look particularly at the issue as it pertains to Part 6, which deals with changes to the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.

I will preface that by saying immigration has been the lifeblood, continues to be the lifeblood and will be the lifeblood of our country. We know in the next five years 100% of our net labour growth will be met by new immigrants. This is where we will have to look for growth. It is important for us to be cognizant of the demographic challenge we face as a nation.

I will go back a bit in the historical perspective, because there are a lot of things that are wrong with the bill.

First, the very fact that such huge, major changes to the Immigration Act are in a budget implementation bill is totally wrong. We heard in the House and across the country that it was not the way to deal with the legislation, to the extent the finance committee referred that section of the bill to the citizenship and immigration committee.

The committee unanimously passed a motion saying that part 6 pertaining to immigration should be struck from the bill because the changes contemplated would be major and would really determine, in a very real sense, the future of our country, the future population make-up of the country.

I said I wanted to go back and talk a bit about history. I remember when we changed the Immigration Act back in 2001. The changes proposed and ultimately adopted were ones that the citizenship and immigration committee itself opposed at the time. The reason we did that was we ended up with a very elitist point system. It essentially meant that many of the people the economy actually needed would not get into the country because of our immigration policies in terms of people applying to our country as economic class immigrants.

I want to underline that those changes were driven by the bureaucracy. I suppose it made their jobs easier, but it did not address the needs of our immigration system. One of the real disconcerting things about that, and as I said the bill was driven by the bureaucracy, was that we developed an elitist point system, which focused on education and abilities to speak the language.

By education. I mean university degrees or the ability to speak French or English. Those were the primary drivers of that point system. Under that point system, people like Frank Stronach of Magna International would never have come to Canada. Frank Hasenfratz, chairman of Linamar, who employs well over 10,000 people, would never have come to Canada. John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of the our country would not have come to Canada, nor would Tommy Douglas. Wayne Gretzky's ancestors would not have come to Canada. Mike Lazaridis, the gentleman who invented the BlackBerry, which all members of the House like to use, would not have come to Canada because the system was too elitist.

When the committee tried to deal with the issues, when we tried to deal with the backlog, when we tried to deal with applying the new point system to ensure did not apply to people already in the queue, we were misinformed by the bureaucracy. This should be a real concern. It was not until the Dragan v. Canada case in the Federal Court, which dealt specifically with the issue, did we find that only was the committee misled by the bureaucracy, but governor in council was misled as well.

There is a basic problem with the way we make decisions around immigration issues. I have been on the citizenship and immigration committee since 1998, and during that time there have been seven immigration ministers. With seven ministers, the committee really did not have an opportunity to learn the file. The decision was, for the most part, and this has been my experience, driven by the bureaucracy.

The proposal in the legislation is not being driven by the present minister because she is a brand new minister. Her record of achievement includes being the first minister in a decade to miss our immigration targets of 240,000 to 265,000 people. She is also the minister who has created a record backlog in the refugee determination system. She is also the minister who denied the reality of lost Canadians, saying there were hundreds of people involved. Then we found out there were actually hundreds of thousands of lost Canadians, which necessitated the legislation. It is under the present minister that the backlog has grown by huge numbers. There was not a large backlog under the previous government.

The bill would remove certainty from people wishing to come to Canada. It would change dramatically the rules of those who play by the rules and qualify for entry. Instead of saying a visa would be issued to these folks, the legislation would say that a visa may be issued to them.

There are problems in our Immigration Act, but they are all fixable. The way we are proceeding, under a budget implementation act, without the scrutiny it should receive, we will not make the right decision any more now than we did in 2001. We are making the wrong decision now and it will totally destroy some of the good things in our immigration system like transparency and objectivity. Our system underlines a premise that has been copied by Australia, New Zealand and England. The United States is looking at it now.

We have to develop a points system that would mesh with what our economy needs. Under the proposed legislation, carpenters, or electricians or labourers, who we need, would not get in the country. These jobs are available all across Canada.

I travelled with the citizenship and immigration committee three times across Canada in the last five years. One thing that has become clear is the fact that there is a real disconnect between what the economy needs and what individuals we allow to come in under the points system.

It would be impossible for me to outline all the changes that I think should be made. I agree with most of the witnesses who appeared at committee. We can make changes that are transparent. We can make changes that will deal with the needs of the economy. We can do this with certainty.

The system we are devising would make us dependent on thousands of temporary foreign workers, yet the people at the lower end of the skill set would be unable to bring their families with them. This is reminiscent of the time when the Chinese were brought into our country to help build the railway in the late 1800s. When the railway was finished, we tried to get rid of them. We do not want to go down that path again.

We need an immigration system that is realistic. We need an immigration system that not only reflects family reunification, but also reflects what our economy needs. We can also make better use of humanitarian clauses as they relate to refugees.

Committees of the House May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, first, the government should apply a general policy that all the people who fit the motion are let in without any kind of refugee hearing to put them through the process.

When the current government came into office two years ago, less than 20,000 people were waiting in the backlog of refugee cases and that number was steadily dropping. Since the Conservative government came into office, those numbers are up to 45,000 and they are expected to be 62,000 by the end of the year. The refugee board system is in a crisis. As I said before, it is my belief that the government is growing the backlog in the refugee division because it wants to abolish that system. This goes with his first point. I want it as a general policy.

On his second point, one can be drafted to go to fight in a just war. I believe many of the soldiers, just like many of the people who went to Vietnam and then became resisters, believed they were fighting in a just war. Once they got there and saw the reality on the ground, all of a sudden they did not want to do service because their conscience would not allow them to do that. There is a difference in fighting in a just war, fighting in an unjust war and fighting in an illegal war.

On his third point, he asked whether people with a criminal record should be able to go through the refugee determination system. For the small number who would be left, the answer is yes, probably under humanitarian compassionate considerations as well.

On our refugee determination system, because of action by it where it has refused to appoint IRB members, the government has created a crisis which threatens the very existence of the IRB. I really believe that is the ultimate goal of this government.

Committees of the House May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. Let me say that this was an issue that we debated, and thought long and hard about at the citizenship and immigration committee. I remember when my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas first broached the topic that there was initially not a great deal of support. However, we talked about the issue. Afterwards, the committee came out with its report which is now before this House and is asking the House to concur in the majority report of the citizenship and immigration committee.

Having listened to the debate, I want to touch on a few cases where this issue has a historical background when we are talking about people seeking refuge in Canada rather than engaging in combat, doing military service and going to war.

The first case we had in our history was in 1793 when the First Assembly of Upper Canada passed a law exempting Quakers, Mennonites and Tunkers from military duty. This cleared the way for thousands of these people to arrive in Ontario and Canada.

In 1877 there was a large number of German Mennonites living in Russia that expressed an interest in moving to Canada to settle on the Prairies. The government passed an order in council confirming that they too could be exempted from military service.

In 1898-99 the government passed similar orders in council for Doukhobors and Hutterites respectively, thereby facilitating the arrival of more newcomers to the western Prairies.

This whole issue of offering refuge in this country relates to those who are against compulsory military service or against military service where they might have volunteered, but found out during the course of their duty that they were engaged in an illegal war and the cause that they were fighting for was not the cause that they originally joined up for and subsequently developed a conscientious objection.

We do not have to go very far away to show that the issue relates to the war in Iraq and how the administration of the United States misled the American people. Yesterday, we had the reports from the former press secretary to President Bush, who made the allegation that indeed while he was the press secretary and having reflected on the matter, it was an exercise in deception in terms of getting the American public behind the war in Iraq.

The fact that the president's former press secretary is now under attack by associates of the White House is not surprising. If we think back to the timeframe of the Iraq war and the debate that raged throughout the world, where the world community was pleading with the United States not to take unilateral action, that was not to happen.

The United States did invade Iraq with the coalition of the willing. I must say that the ranks of the coalition of the willing has shrunk a great deal. We are now talking about the United States standing virtually alone in Iraq.

The motion we are debating today could very easily be the same action as that taken by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who stated in regard to the Vietnam war:

Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war...have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.

When Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made the courageous decision and the right decision that Canada was not going to engage in the war in Iraq, he and the Liberal government were attacked by the leader of the Canadian Alliance, the present Prime Minister, and the present day public security minister , who was also with the Canadian Alliance at that time. I quote from a letter they sent to the Wall Street Journal:

Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations. This is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need.

The Canadian Alliance--the official opposition in parliament--supports the American and British position because we share their concerns, their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to, and their fundamental vision of civilization and human values. Disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world, and for the collective interests of our key historic allies and therefore manifestly in the national interest of Canada.

Make no mistake, as our allies work to end the reign of Saddam and the brutality and aggression that are the foundations of his regime, Canada's largest opposition party, the Canadian Alliance will not be neutral. In our hearts and minds, we will be with our allies and friends. And Canadians will be overwhelmingly with us.

We do not need to have people coming to Canada and asking for refuge because they do not want to participate in a war that has been judged to be an illegal war.

Canada likes to think of itself as a peacekeeper, and Canadians are most comfortable in that role that Canada plays in the world. As we all know, it was Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, prior to becoming prime minister, who received the Nobel peace prize for inventing peacekeeping. That peacekeeping situation with the blue berets came into play in the Suez.

We ask the government to stand up and make a decision to support people who seek not to serve in unjust wars and people who are against serving in wars. That is the right thing to do. That is what the Canadian public overwhelmingly expects us to do. I believe the American public does the same.

Look at the support for the president who led the United States into war, which is recorded in history. To their chagrin, the American people realized, unfortunately too late, that this war has had a tremendous cost to the social, economic and moral values of the United States of America.

Committees of the House May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary did not answer the question posed to him by the member for Burnaby—Douglas, which related to the refugee appeal division. The refugee appeal division is in legislation. What it takes now is enactment.

Will the parliamentary secretary please acknowledge that being the reality?

Committees of the House May 29th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, let me thank my colleague from the New Democratic Party for his comments on this issue.

It really seems to be that we in Canada are in strong support of the United Nations and in strong support in making sure that we discourage unilateral type elections outside of world organizations, such as the UN.

What we should be doing and what the motion talks about is putting our values that we stand on by supporting the United Nations. As well, we should be trying to work toward peace and supporting those individuals who find themselves caught in a terrible dilemma, such as the war resisters that we are talking about.

If one looks at the leadership that we have taken on the whole issue of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and if we believe in these ideas, it would really seem to me that we must, with those same thoughts, extend and support those people who are standing up as a matter of conscience and who are standing up and saying, “this war is not the war that I believed it was when I got into it being a just war--

Committees of the House May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I say to my colleague that it was one of the reasons we put the motion at committee. It was to try to make sense and try to be logical about a situation that in policy makes no sense. What really strikes me and I find incomprehensible is that the governing Conservative Party cannot see the stupidity of the present process. It is just illogical. Why split families up? Every one of us, as members of Parliament, have had situations--

Committees of the House May 6th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that Canada is facing a demographic crisis and to think that the government would discourage young families, break up young families, makes no sense. Further, the incredible reliance that the government puts on temporary foreign workers, instead of landed immigrants who will come here and build a country, also makes no sense. We need to start thinking more logically and not through the bureaucratese of the department, which I dare say could certainly use some modernization. It is very hard to try to explain the inconsistencies of the Conservative government.