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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was mentioned.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Oak Ridges—Markham (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Five with Drive May 15th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, May 27, five individuals, the “Five with Drive”, will leave Halifax and walk to Markham, Ontario, a distance of more than 2,000 kilometres.

The walk is to support the Centre for DREAMS, Inc., a registered charitable organization that helps intellectually challenged adults become active and productive in the community.

I have sent information packages on the walk to all members from Markham to Halifax and to senators from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. I hope that MPs will raise awareness about the walk in their local communities.

Financial donations are welcomed, as are donations of food and refreshments along the route. Members might also contact their local media about the walk.

Let us all work together to ensure the walk is a resounding success.

Broadcasting Act April 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again speak to Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

This would amend the Broadcasting Act to grant the CRTC the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes. I commend my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, for raising this issue.

I do not plan on supporting the legislation but it certainly concerns a serious matter and it can only benefit Canadian society that violence be examined and debated here in the House of Commons.

As the father of four children, I certainly share my colleague's concerns about the levels of violence broadcast on television to young children. My children are older now, but violence on television is certainly an issue I had to deal with while they were growing up.

However, I am not sure the legislation is now necessary. The objective of Bill C-327 is consistent with the current regulatory practice of the CRTC and self-governing standards from both public and private sector broadcasters.

The CRTC already sets out policy and rules that govern violence on television and, more important, are a mandatory condition of a licence for all broadcasters. Moreover, there is an established and enforced requirement that does not allow violent television programming to air before 9 p.m. eastern time.

Viewer advisories referencing unsuitable programming for children are communicated through voice and print before programs. This is encouraging news but we must not be complacent and must be ever vigilant to ensure that images our children are exposed to are healthy.

On the subject of violence, the government has so far done very little to counter my constituents' concerns about violence in our midst and criminal justice issues in particular. My position on criminal justice is that an effective and comprehensive approach to crime is one that deals with every aspect of fighting crime, preventing crime, catching criminals, convicting criminals through competent and quick administration, and rehabilitating criminals.

I am committed to appointing more judges, putting more police officers on the street and more prosecutors in the courts, protecting the most vulnerable, including children and seniors, and giving our youth more opportunities to succeed.

This is where the Liberal justice plan comes into play. The Liberal offer was originally made last October as an attempt to get effective criminal justice legislation passed through Parliament as quickly as possible with the goal to protect Canadian communities.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has again rejected Liberal efforts to fast-track a number of its own justice bills. This is a bizarre and puzzling decision on the part of the government.

The Liberal opposition has tried three times in the last six months to expedite a number of government bills dealing with justice issues and the Conservatives have failed to collaborate with us. My question is simple: Why does the Conservative government not cooperate with Liberals to get its own criminal justice legislation passed? After all, I recognize the importance of effective criminal justice legislation.

As a member from the GTA, I know all too well the number of firearm offences that have occurred in my area. Thankfully, gun-related deaths have subsided and I applaud the efforts that have been made by stakeholders in the city, at all levels, in reducing the number of gun crimes.

The work is not yet done and the government could certainly help by collaborating with the opposition to pass important and effective criminal justice legislation.

While I am speaking to these issues, it is important to note that the present Liberal justice plan is in addition to the important justice initiatives that were taken while the Liberals were in power. This is something that the Conservatives do not seem to want to recognize but they should give credit where it is due.

First, Canada's first comprehensive national security policy, a strategic framework and action plan designed to ensure that the government can prepare for and respond to security threats while still maintaining Canadian values of openness, diversity and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.

Second, the creation of a national sex offender registry to protect Canadians from violent sex offenders.

Third, further protection of our children through Bill C-2 from the 38th Parliament. This bill would have strengthened prohibitions against child pornography by broadening the definition of child pornography to include audio formats as well as written material. It would have also increased the maximum penalty for child sexual offences.

Still on the subject of violence, there is another matter the government should start taking seriously. I am amazed that the government has not introduced animal cruelty legislation to the House. The only animal cruelty legislation we have seen is from Liberal parliamentarians.

I commend my Liberal colleagues for introducing private member's bills on this subject. It seems that only the opposition is concerned about this very serious issue. We have seen a whole array of justice bills introduced by the government. Why has animal cruelty not been one of them?

Different governments have attempted over the years to pass this kind of legislation but the Conservative government has not taken it seriously. The government owes an explanation to Canadians as to why it has not introduced legislation to better protect our animals, over which we have an important responsibility.

Those are the issues my constituents are concerned about and they expect to see action from the government. Instead, they see criminal justice legislation stalled and, in the case of animal cruelty, ignored by the government.

I commend my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing forth legislation dealing with violence. The bill is not necessary as I am satisfied that there are already sufficient safeguards to protect our children.

The real onus lies with the government. There are a number of things that it can do to immediately make our communities safer. I have been pleased to outline some of these thing today, and they include working with the opposition to get effective criminal justice legislation passed, as well as immediately introducing an animal cruelty bill as a piece of government legislation. I look forward to continuing to follow these debates.

Committees of the House April 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I listened with care to the speech by the hon. member and there is something I am interested in pursuing a little further. She mentioned that home ownership is very important in being a role model for new Canadians, as well as youth, in decreasing crime rates in neighbourhoods.

In my riding, home ownership by individuals is at about 85%. One would think that 85% is quite high, and it is, although we would like it to be a little higher. However, even though ours is a thriving community and we might be the sixth wealthiest riding in the country in terms of household income, we still have our problems or challenges when it comes to crime.

Recently in my area, the police found out that the people in one home were dealing in counterfeit papers, including passports and other important papers. There also have been many grow ops in our area even though ours is the sixth wealthiest riding in the country.

I understand that when an area is economically depressed it will have a larger amount of crime and problems with youth, especially where there are ethnic ghettos, as the member mentioned.

I came to Canada when I was 13 years old. My family lived in a kind of ethnic ghetto at the time, but I did not see it as an ethnic ghetto then. I did not know any better. My mother and father went to work every morning and I started work when I was 14 years old, right after we came to Canada, when I could speak very little English. Sometimes I would speak to people in sign language when asking for food or a drink, the same way MPs ask the pages in the House of Commons to get them a drink.

However, the grow ops in our area, if I may expand on that, are coming at us fast and furious. The faster they are closed down or uncovered, the faster there is another one opening up down the street. As a matter of fact, a home just around the corner from my own house was busted twice in a row within a year. Since it was last closed down in October or November, the home has been boarded up and is not being used at all.

I spoke with members of the police associations who were here the other day at the reception for the Canadian Police Association. They are asking for more support in their plight in order to tackle this sort of problem. I certainly do not want grow ops in my area or anywhere in Canada. If only we could do more about that. Maybe the member can elaborate on how we can tackle the problem of the grow ops and chemical labs that are popping up all over the country.

I understand that people get caught, but there are people who know nothing about what is going on. People are living on the first and second floors of a 4,000 square foot home and meanwhile the basement is a grow op. They go down to the basement with water every day, but they are living on the first floor with a big plasma TV and living in luxury that someone has given to them.

I am not sure what we can do about it, but I am sure that building more prisons, as has been suggested across the floor, is not the solution to this problem. What may help is prevention in regard to this issue rather than punishing people and putting them away for longer at the end, with more people put away in more prison spaces. I believe more in the preventative method rather than punishment at the end.

Statistics and information have told us, even at the time when I was going to university, which was many years ago, that a longer sentence is not a deterrent to them repeating the offence later on. There is a break point where it serves no purpose to keep somebody in jail for a longer period.

Could the member comment on that?

The Budget March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, first, in terms of our leader saying that he would like to get back into government as soon as possible, Canadians are urging us to get back into government as soon as possible. They are not very happy with what is going on in Canada in the budgets that we are seeing.

Second, yes, I do see some good policies in the budget. Helping disabled children and those who are in need, absolutely I am in support of that. I support the item in the budget about mental illness as well.

The Budget March 20th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Laval—Les Îles.

Once again this year I am pleased to speak to the Conservative budget. Last year I raised many concerns with the budget and I have the same concerns this year. This budget, once again, fails to provide an overarching vision for Canadians.

The budget fails to provide any measures for medium or long term sustainability for Canada. It seems to be a budget that is catering only to the partisan interests of the governing party for a federal election campaign, which Canadians do not want.

I am familiar with the issues that the finance minister addresses in the budget. My background for over 20 years was in the financial services industry. I have sat at the kitchen and boardroom tables with families struggling to make ends meet and families looking to maximize their investments. This background and awareness gives me a unique perspective on the Conservative budget.

The budget does not really do much to help most Canadians in an effective way. This is certainly one budget that tries to be all things to all people and is nothing to anyone in the end.

Before I begin commenting on the budget today, I want to provide some context. Last year's budget increased taxes. Beginning in July, Canadians found that they were paying more in income tax because of the marginal tax rate increase and the basic personal exemption decrease. Not only do we find a budget that is high in spending, but we find taxes for individual working Canadians are still excessively high. This makes the finance minister's second budget a tax and spend budget.

Many of us were optimistic and hopeful that the Conservative tax increases would be rolled back and with very high income tax revenues and large surpluses, Canadians might even find their taxes lowered significantly. This did not happen. The tax relief that the minister pretended to deliver yesterday is very little when last year's increases are factored in.

The first item I wish to address today is child care. It was with great fanfare that the government shelved the national child care program, which the previous Liberal government put in place with the provinces. Instead, Canadian families are receiving, after tax, less than $100 per child per month. On the news last night, a family in Ontario was profiled and the parents said that they were able to buy a few packs of diapers with that money. This is not good enough for Canadians. How does this help single parent families? How does this help families that are struggling to make ends meet?

The government says that the budget is about families, but it has eliminated one of the best social programs in 50 years in terms of truly helping families. My daughter works part time at a child care centre. She witnesses first-hand the struggles families are facing and how they struggle to bear the great cost of child care.

Seniors were certainly one of the groups that was looking for some help from the minister yesterday. I often hear from seniors in my riding who are concerned about the sustainability of public pension plans, which they depend on for making ends meet.

To be sure, some seniors will benefit from the measures in yesterday's budget, but let us remember that hundreds of thousands of single seniors, many of them women, will not benefit at all from the policies of the government. The Government of Canada's tax plan for seniors should be one that benefits all seniors equally.

Closely related, another matter that has greatly concerned seniors is the government's income trust decision of October 31. The decision to tax income trusts has wiped out more than $25 billion in savings overnight and reversed the key Conservative campaign promise. Many seniors invested their money based on their promises and their faith in the Conservatives cost them thousands of dollars of their hard-earned savings.

I have repeatedly heard from many constituents that they are concerned about the state of Canada's environment. As I have mentioned before, residents in Oak Ridges—Markham have a particular interest in environmental matters for a couple of reasons.

First, my riding is the home of the beautiful Oak Ridges Moraine. This natural preserve is held dear to many in my riding and those who visit the area. Another reason why constituents are so concerned with the environment is their residency in the GTA. We seem to experience more and more smog days every year and longer and longer commute times to work in the city.

My constituents are disappointed. There is very little in the budget that will truly make a difference to the environment. The tax break on environmentally friendly vehicles is a good idea, along with corresponding tax penalties for large vehicles, but most important, there is no overarching vision or plan for how the government will address this serious issue.

I recall in last year's budget the minister announced that the government environmental plan was under development. Let us bear in mind that the environment was not an original priority for the Prime Minister, but as public opinion polls started to report that Canadians were increasingly concerned about this issue, he changed his tune. Still we have not seen any results and the legislation the Conservatives unveiled last fall went over like a lead balloon. In fact, the legislation was so bad it had to be sent to a special committee for improvement.

The government says that it is a party that wants to get tough on crime. The Liberal Party has taken a strong position on criminal justice matters so far in this Parliament and supports seven of the government justice bills, and the budget finds some strategies that target white collar and drug crimes as well as more money for CSIS and corrections. It is my view that rather than rhetoric, the government should get down to business and truly implement justice strategies that will make Canadians safer.

The Liberal justice plan provides safer communities to Canadians and frees up time for Parliament and its justice committee to carefully study the other bills in the government's justice agenda with which we have serious concerns.

Why does the government not accept the Liberal offer to fast track justice legislation originally offered last October as an attempt to get effective criminal justice legislation passed through Parliament as quickly as possible to protect Canadian communities? Why is the government choosing confrontation and partisanship over safer communities? Canadians have not seen results now in two of the Conservative budgets.

I will continue to do what I can to bring the concerns of my constituents here to the floor of the House of Commons and pressure the government to act in the best interest of Canadians.

Boris Mangov February 23rd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute today to Boris Mangov, a Canadian Macedonian businessman and community leader who recently passed away.

Boris arrived in Canada in 1959 and was active in the Macedonian community for over 40 years. Indeed, there was no Macedonian event that he either did not attend or did not help to organize.

Boris was president of St. Clement Macedonian Cathedral and president of the United Macedonians Organization of Canada. He was involved in drama club activities and organized cultural contacts with Macedonia.

His wife has established a scholarship directed at the Macedonian community in his honour. I encourage second year university students to apply. This is a fitting tribute to a man who worked hard to organize Macedonians in their loyalty to Canada and pride in their heritage.

Business of Supply February 22nd, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague from Kitchener—Waterloo. I had the pleasure of serving on the citizenship and immigration committee for two years while he was the chair. The work that we did as a committee was outstanding and bears fruit to this day.

We touched on a number of issues on that committee. We touched on the Citizenship Act. We also looked at family reunification as well as international credentials. We travelled across the country to hear from witnesses on those three issues.

One of the issues that constantly came up, and which continues to come up in our constituency offices, is that of visitors visas. It seems that some days our constituency offices perform the job of visitor visa intermediaries in one way or another. We heard some testimony in that committee on visitors visas. If my recollection is good and if the numbers have not changed, I believe it was in the range of 150,000 visitor applications that are refused every year, which is about 22%. Maybe the member for Kitchener—Waterloo could refresh my memory on how that percentage was or was not improved.

I can just imagine 150,000 more visitors coming into Canada, the number of planes it would take, the amount of financial support it would give to the Canadian economy for those people to visit the CN tower, Niagara Falls, the west coast or the east coast of Canada.

Brain Tumour Surveillance February 12th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, not only is cancer is an important health issue facing Canadians, it is a crucial issue. Each and every Canadian is somehow touched by this awful disease.

It is one that hits particularly close to home for me. Both of my parents died from cancer. My father Naum was just 60 years old when he passed away and my mother Zorka was 70.

I want to commend the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley for bringing this motion to the floor of the House of Commons. I know that the hon. member has been in the House for a long time and he has always had the best interests of his constituents at heart. I understand that this motion was prompted by actual cases in his Nova Scotia riding. I also know that the member had a cancer scare last year himself. We are certainly all happy that it was caught early. I pass along my best wishes to him for continued excellent health.

In preparing for this debate this morning, I looked at some recent statistics on brain cancer. Each year approximately 10,000 Canadians are diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumour. While no type of cancer is pleasant, brain cancer is particularly devastating, as the brain tumours are located in the individual's centre of thought, emotion and movement. All of our bodily processes start in and emanate from the brain, making the results of brain cancer particularly devastating.

Cancer is a tricky and unpredictable disease. Sometimes it is hard to know what is really going on because statistics and findings seem to change so very often. Often we get contradictory information.

We do know that it is a devastating condition. It is time for us to come together and find a solution. We must do what we can to reduce cancer's effects.

It might be idealistic to think we can eradicate cancer, but let us consider the outstanding achievements of humankind.

We have put people on the moon and we have sent specialized vehicles to Mars that sent back data for analysis. We have instantaneous communication on handheld devices.

What I am saying is that if we can do all of that, then surely to goodness there is more we can do to fight cancer. It is the equalizer and does not discriminate. The hon. member's motion is hopefully a good start down this road.

The Canadian Alliance of Brain Tumour Organizations tells us there is no national mechanism or standard for the collection of both malignant and benign brain tumour data. The alliance has a particular concern that jurisdictions in Canada seem to be reporting only the malignant cases.

We have must have a better understanding of the actual numbers to accurately reflect the impact of this awful disease on Canadians and their families.

At first glance, the motion seems to be self-evident. After all, since we all live in the same country, why would we not share as much information as we can and establish national standards? At times, the realities of the Canadian federation make this a challenge.

Therefore, I am very pleased with the wording of the motion. It calls upon the government to work with its provincial and territorial partners, advocacy groups and other stakeholders to obtain timely and accurate data. We have to work together, not only because health care is a shared jurisdiction, but because we all have a stake in this and a role to play in reducing the incidence and effects of this disease. Perhaps this will be the start of better coordination to come.

There are other things that we can all do as well. There is more that government can do and there is more that we can do as individuals.

Obesity rates are increasing, most worrisomely among children. We must all strive to lead healthier lifestyles, exercising more and eating better. All members have the Canada Food Guide that was distributed to our offices just last week. It is important that Canadians get this nutritional information and take it seriously.

A national pharmaceutical strategy is most important to all Canadians and especially to those living with disease. I fully support such a strategy, as it is part of my belief that we cannot let Canadians down when they need prescription medications and when they most need help.

To me, a national pharmaceutical strategy goes hand in hand with the universal health care system. At the first ministers meeting in September 2004, leaders committed to the development and implementation of the national pharmaceutical strategy. All governments, with important and necessary leadership from the federal government, must continue to work toward this as soon as possible.

I hear from my constituents on this matter. I hear stories of people who are facing debilitating high drug costs. There has to be a better way.

The next point related to the motion on brain cancer is discussion on wait times. It goes without saying that the earlier the cancer is caught and the earlier it is treated, the better it is for the patient, both in terms of quality of life and for prospects for survival.

A wait times guarantee was of course one of the main priorities of the Prime Minister. I am concerned that the government has not yet come through on this important election promise of a wait times guarantee for Canadians.

There have been a couple of piecemeal announcements that serve mostly to make the government appear to be taking action. What is really needed is a comprehensive national plan, with the support of the provinces and territories.

On Friday the health minister met with his provincial and territorial counterparts in Toronto to discuss medical procedure wait times. I recognize that this is not an easy issue to address. I am pleased that all sides met and that everyone is talking, but Canadians want to see results. Why can the minister not provide timelines for this?

I know that the minister said the meeting was a chance to get some of the issues out there and to talk them through, but I do not think it is unreasonable on the part of Canadians to expect some sort of timeline from the minister. It is important to bear in mind that it was his party that made the commitment in the first place. The Conservatives owe it to Canadians to follow through in a timely fashion and to keep them up to date on progress.

I believe we are at the point where there is a real chance for change and for better health care for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

In September 2004 first ministers came together and decided to tackle the challenges of health care head on. The result was an unprecedented agreement, a $41.3 billion agreement with the provinces and territories to enhance Canada's health care system for the next decade. An agreement on this scale proves that the will is there.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Health must build on this success. Real potential exists to see further improvements in our health system and to realize such things as wait time guarantees and catastrophic drug coverage.

Kamil Sadiq February 8th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, the Regional Municipality of York Police Services posthumously granted Kamil Sadiq its award for civic leadership.

Mr. Sadiq was a visionary, humanitarian and resident of Markham for many years and recently lost his battle with cancer. Mr. Sadiq was committed to creating an inclusive, equitable and peaceful society and his community involvement spoke to these goals.

He initiated two alliances to foster understanding and to seek non-violent ways to resolve conflicts: the Canadian Federation of Intercultural Friendship and a new partnership between the federation, police agencies and municipal governments known as the Canadian Federation of Intercultural Friendship Community and Police Committee. Just last year, he marked 50 years as a Freemason.

Mr. Sadiq's legacy serves as an example to all of us and I am pleased to honour him in the House today.

Criminal Code February 6th, 2007

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member if there is any percentage increase in the number of convictions that are expected that he is aware of from the bill. What is the percentage increase of convictions that is expected and are there any figures that he has in terms of sentencing that will stem directly from the bill?