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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was years.

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

Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act February 25th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak about why we need to preserve the integrity of the Canada student loans program and ensure access to higher education in Canada by voting against Bill C-236.

In the Speech from the Throne the Government of Canada pledged to build a Canada where the creativity and talents of all Canadians are maximized. The role of government is to give Canadians the tools and opportunities they need to make the most of their lives. We understand that investing in the skills of our citizens is simply one of the best investments we can make as a nation.

By 2007, 70% of the new jobs in Canada will need some form of post-secondary education, whether it is a trade, a college diploma or degree, but as many as 42% of working age Canadians lack the necessary literacy and other essential skills to meet these requirements. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the Government of Canada has made skills development and learning a priority.

Certainly part of the answer lies in opening up access to post-secondary education. Among OECD countries Canada has the highest rate of participation in post-secondary education. Canada has one of the most effective student financial assistance programs in the world.

Through the Canada student loans program we are doing much to help students cope with the rising cost of post-secondary education. Over the last 40 years the Canada student loans program has earned respect across the country by helping countless students meet the cost of post-secondary education. About 330,000 Canadian students a year currently benefit from this program, which last year lent $1.6 million to students in need.

We recognize that more must be done to improve access to education. More must be done to help students cope with the rising costs and high debt load upon graduation. That is why we have made improvements to the Canada student loans program.

Members may recall that the 10 year prohibition on discharging student loans was introduced in 1998 as a means of improving the integrity and accountability of our student loans program in Canada. By increasing the prohibition on discharging loans to 10 years and introducing improved measures to assist students in financial difficulty, we were able to significantly reduce the number of students declaring bankruptcy in Canada.

If a student goes bankrupt, the student loan stays on the books for 10 years, allowing the student time to settle down, find a job and begin making payments. The Government of Canada recognizes that it is wrong to penalize students with bankruptcy and a bad credit rating right after completing their studies when their potential for earning has yet to be realized.

Over the years the Government of Canada has made significant improvements to the Canada student loans program. New debt relief measures were introduced to help students manage their debt and avoid declaring bankruptcy. These include interest relief and debt reduction in repayment. Interest relief is a debt management measure which provides students who are experiencing temporary financial difficulty in repaying their student loans with up to 54 months of relief on loan repayments. While students are on interest relief, they are not required to make any payments of either the principal or interest on their loans. During that time the Government of Canada pays the monthly interest on the loan.

Debt reduction in repayment is a targeted debt management measure. It is available to help students who have exhausted interest relief, but continue to remain in financial difficulty.

Debt reduction in repayment reduces the student's loan principal by up to $10,000 and aims to lower the monthly loan payment to an affordable level relative to his or her income. In the event that a student continues to remain in financial difficulty following this reduction, he or she may be eligible for two additional reductions of up to $5,000 each in 12 month intervals.

In implementing debt management measures, our goal was to encourage more student borrowers to make use of them as an alternative to declaring bankruptcy and creating bad credit histories.

These programs have been a tremendous success. They have helped many Canadian students avoid declaring bankruptcy and get back on their feet again.

Since their introduction in 1998, more student borrowers are taking advantage of these debt management measures. In fact, in 2001-02 over 140,000 student borrowers accessed the interest relief program at a cost of $77 million.

In the 2003 federal budget we introduced new measures to allow borrowers who declared bankruptcy to be eligible for new loans, interest relief and debt reduction in repayment. These new amendments came into effect last May. This change has helped literally hundreds of Canadian students complete their studies.

New changes to debt management measures were introduced in the last federal budget. They include measures to increase the income threshold used to determine eligibility for interest relief by 5%, and to increase the total amount of debt reduction in repayment from $20,000 to $26,000.

Bill C-236 asks Parliament to revert to the two year rule used before 1998. We know from experience that the two year rule simply does not work. It does not give Canadian students the time they need to become established, find well paying jobs and begin making payments on their loans.

Before changes were made to the bankruptcy rules, more than 53,000 students declared bankruptcy between 1990 and 1997 at a staggering cost of $445 million to the government in unpaid student loans.

By extending the period to 10 years, the Government of Canada has been successful in helping to curb the number of bankruptcies of recent student borrowers. Only 5,945 student borrowers declared bankruptcy between 1998 and 2000. During that same period approximately 230,000 borrowers received interest relief and over 900 borrowers benefited from debt reduction in repayment.

As a matter of fact, high bankruptcy rates between 1990 and 1996 were the catalyst for the government's decision to introduce new measures to lower student bankruptcies, such as the 10 year rule.

Allowing students time to make their way in the world after graduating is the right thing to do. That is why I am urging members to vote against Bill C-236.

Citizenship and Immigration February 23rd, 2005

Mr. Speaker, last week we heard from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in regard to the 2,000 Vietnamese boat people who remain in the Philippines.

I know that he mentioned the difficulties involved in remedying this situation, but given the role that Canada plays in welcoming refugees and the great contribution the Vietnamese Canadian community has made to this country, surely something can be done. Just what is the government prepared to do?

Supply February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, we definitely support the public day care program. We ran on it in the last campaign and we are going to deliver what we said we would during the election campaign. In regard to the debate, this is part of the debate. There are ongoing debates that will be continuing. The minister for child care will be unveiling a program. He is in discussions with the provinces to ensure they strike an agreement that is appropriate for all Canadians.

Supply February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, when tax programs are put in place federally, they do have some jurisdiction over provincial matters. In this case, when a province would prefer to claw back on benefits, we are definitely not in agreement and do not condone those types of practices. They hurt the most vulnerable people in our society, which are modest and low income families.

Supply February 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the motion raised by the official opposition. I am grateful for this opportunity because it provides me with the chance to remind members from all parties, and indeed all Canadians, about several of the extraordinary measures that our government has taken in recent years to reduce the tax burden faced by our citizens from coast to coast.

Let me be clear. Our government has always recognized the need to reduce the tax burden on Canadians and their families. This is because we have always understood that ensuring that our tax system is fair and competitive plays an important role in building a 21st century economy while also strengthening our social foundations. With the elimination of the federal deficit in 1997, the government provided tax relief in both the 1998 and 1999 budgets. In 2000 the government unveiled the most ambitious and far-reaching tax cutting effort ever launched in Canadian history, the five year tax reduction plan.

As we announced at the time of the 2000 federal budget, our government tax reduction efforts would be founded on four broad principles.

First, while a tax reduction must ultimately benefit all Canadians, it must primarily benefit those who need it the most: middle and low income earners, especially families with children. Second, broad-based tax reductions should focus initially on personal income taxes. Third, the business tax system must be internationally competitive. Finally, broad-based tax reductions should not be financed with borrowed money.

With these factors in mind and with strong economic growth underpinning a surging Canadian economy, our government set out a five year tax plan that aimed specifically at reducing Canada's personal and business tax levels by $100 billion over five years. This plan, which has provided real and significant tax relief, was initially anchored by two fundamental structural changes.

First, the plan dealt with the issues of inflation and its effects on tax rates. As all members of the House know, taxes cannot come down in earnest until they stop going up with inflation. With this in mind, we made the most significant change to Canada's tax system in more than 10 years. In the 2000 budget the government restored full indexation to the personal income tax system, effective January 1, 2000.

Second, our government did something that no government in the previous 12 years had been able to do. We lowered the actual tax rate of Canadians. Over the five year period of our tax reduction plan, we have lowered the middle tax rates from 26% to 23%. Most importantly, two-thirds of that reduction, down to 24%, came into effect on July 1, 2000.

Reindexing the tax system and lowering the tax rates have, over the past five years, provided a significant benefit for all Canadians, but our government has gone further. We have increased the amounts Canadians can earn tax free to $8,000 and we have raised the income tax levels at which middle and upper tax rate begin to apply to $35,000 and $75,000 respectively.

They are important structural changes that have occurred in Canada's tax system. They have benefited millions of Canadians and have helped contribute to a higher quality of life for our citizens. Some of the most important and in many ways the most significant changes we have made directly relate to the support we have provided to Canadian families through our reform of the tax system.

I hardly need to remind my hon. colleagues that the cost of raising children is a significant expense. Ask any parent about the price of new shoes or snowsuits. Ask any parent whose child plays sports or takes music lessons. Ask any parent trying to save for their children's education.

The purpose of the Canada child tax benefit, CCTB, is to help with these costs. When we asked Canadians about what we would do to help them provide their children with the best possible start in life, one of the key issues they raised with us was the need to ensure that our tax system provided support for low and modest income families. We listened and, more importantly, we took action.

In budget 2000, we increased the maximum amount a family could receive under the Canada child tax benefit for its first child to $1,975, but we did not stop there. In fact, we announced a further increase in July 2001 to $2,265. In subsequent budgets we continued to raise the maximum and in the most recent year, 2004, it stood at $2,719. By the time the current round of mandated increases is over in 2007, the maximum CCTB benefit will stand at $3,243. That is more than double the $1,520 level in 1996. That is a clear example of our commitment to provide significant and sustained tax relief to Canadian families.

Canadians have also benefited from the significant reduction in employment insurance rates over the past decade. Each and every year for the past 11 years the government has lowered EI rates, which have fallen from their peak of $3.07 in 1994 to the current level of $1.95. As a result of these rate reductions, employers and employees will pay $10.5 billion less in premiums in 2005 than they would have paid under the 1994 rate.

I could go on about other measures the government has taken to provide support to Canadian families. I could speak about the substantial support it provides to persons with disabilities through the disability tax credit and the medical expenses tax credit. I could point to other efforts to help families provide funding for their children's post-secondary education through the establishment of the Canada education savings grant and the Canada learning bond. I could speak of the support that we have provided to small business owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom are operating family run businesses to help them achieve success. Instead, I will conclude my remarks with some facts for my colleagues.

First, the five year tax reduction plan represents the largest tax cuts in Canadian history. Second, three-quarters of the benefits from this plan are flowing to individuals, with most of the tax relief going to low and modest income Canadians. Indeed, in the current fiscal year, the tax reduction plan has lowered federal personal income tax by 21% on average and 27% for families with children.

Make no mistake about it. These measures have translated into real benefits for Canadians from all walks of life. For example, a typical single parent with one child and an income of $25,000 in 2004 would have received an additional $1,139 in annual net federal benefits compared to what would have happened if the tax reduction plan had not been in place. A typical single income family of four earning $40,000 in 2004 now pays $2,003 less in annual net federal tax. These are real tangible savings and they are making a difference in the lives of millions of Canadians and their children.

Given the government's strong commitment to providing support for low and modest income Canadians and their families, I will not be supporting the opposition motion and urge all of my colleagues to join me.

International Development December 13th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring attention to the important issue of Canada's role in international development.

As one of the globe's most developed and resource and culturally rich nations, there is an inherent responsibility which ethically and humanely requires Canada to continue to enhance its leadership role in funding untied, non-ideological aid and capacity development to lesser developed nations.

As a nation fuelled by cultural, social and political diversity as opposed to archaic and discriminatory religious fundamentalism, it is important for Canada to utilize its immense capacity to show the world that compassion does exist, and universal, tangible results can be had through the spearheading of those fortunate nation states willing to increase the value they place upon the quality of life.

Animal Rights December 7th, 2004

Madam Speaker, the debate over animal cruelty legislation has persisted since 1999. I agree that Bill C-22, introduced in the 3rd session of the 37th Parliament, effectively addressed the concerns of stakeholders on both sides of the debate.

Bill C-22 was the culmination of extensive negotiations and concessions on all sides. It would be a mistake to complicate matters by introducing substantially different legislation after this consensus has already been achieved.

The bill now has support from most major groups reflecting both animal welfare and animal industry perspectives. I hope to see the reintroduction of this legislation in the House at the earliest possible opportunity.

St. Augustine's Choir December 2nd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I wish to bring attention to the visit of the St. Augustine's choir to Parliament Hill today.

The choir is made up of a wonderful group of high school students who attend St. Augustine's and have dedicated considerable time to crafting their vocal talents.

The choir performed earlier today in the rotunda. For those fortunate enough to hear them, they are familiar with the choir's talents. For those who did not hear them, I shall vouch for their angelic voices and gifted instrumental abilities.

I ask for a warm parliamentary welcome for these young students and their teachers who are here today.

Macedonian Place November 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House of a $500,000 silver gala event that took place this weekend in Toronto in honour of Louis Turpen, who was the builder of the airport in Toronto.

The Canadian Macedonian Place was built 25 years ago and is in much need of renovations. The gala event raised $500,000 and it will serve the community very well. This magnificent facility has served the Macedonian community in Toronto for the last 25 years and we look forward to the community using this facility in the near future.

Department of Canadian Heritage Act November 24th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, as the House is aware, I represent the riding of Oak Ridges--Markham, about half of which is the Oak Ridges moraine.

The Oak Ridges moraine is a very significant landform. The moraine gets its name from its rolling hills, rivers and valleys extending over 160 kilometres from the Niagara Escarpment to Rice Lake. It was formed about 12,000 years ago. The moraine contains the headwaters of 65 river systems, 35 in the GTA, the greater Toronto area. It has a wide diversity of streams, woodlands, wetlands, kettle lakes, kettle bogs, and significant flora and fauna. It is one of the last remaining continuous green corridors in southern Ontario.

That is why I am standing to speak in support of the bill. The Oak Ridges moraine has been enhanced recently, although it is not a national park.

Regrettably I have to say in the House that I have not gone to a national park. I have camped in provincial parks for the last 20 years but have yet to camp in a national park.

The Oak Ridges moraine is not a national park but it does provide general beauty in the area. Recently the Ontario government made its announcement on the greenbelt legislation which protects a lot more land in the GTA which will beautify the Ontario region in years to come.

I just wanted to make those comments and mention that the ecological beauty the Oak Ridges moraine provides in the Ontario region is of significance to our area and in my riding especially.

A member from the opposite side mentioned earlier that there are not enough resources. I would repeat that and add that not only are there not enough resources but there are not enough natural resources. We must continue to be very vigilant and work with natural resources initiatives in Canada.