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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was section.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Scarborough Southwest (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2006, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Justice June 12th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, Toronto newspapers recently reported on the case of Leslie Hoogland, a former Toronto high school teacher, who was convicted of possession of over 2,000 pornographic pictures of Toronto area under-age boys. He had also hired child prostitutes in the Toronto area.

For these heinous crimes against children, Madame Justice Faye McWatt gave him a two year conditional sentence, including one year of house arrest. How does a sentence like this send a message of denunciation and deterrence? It does not.

It is sentences like this, for crimes against children, which cry out for reform of conditional sentencing. Bill C-9 would address these irresponsible sentences imposed by judges since we cannot count on them to self-regulate their use of conditional sentences. Passage of Bill C-9 cannot come soon enough for the exploited children of Canada and the world.

Food and Drugs Act May 15th, 2006

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-283, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (food labelling).

Mr. Speaker, this is the 39th Parliament's version of this bill, which I introduced in the last two Parliaments. It follows on a previous bill that I had which eventually resulted in mandatory nutritional labelling in Canada.

This bill would extend that to provide nutritional information at fast food outlets and other places where Canadians eat so that they could make the appropriate choices after they had the appropriate information. It would also provide for information to be properly described when using words or pictures in terms of the contents of food.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary Delegations May 11th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-China Legislative Association respecting its visit to China from March 22 to April 1, 2006.

Petitions May 3rd, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of people in the Toronto area, primarily from my riding, who are Falun Gong practitioners and are concerned about what they perceive is the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in the People's Republic of China.

They are calling on the Prime Minister and the Canadian government to condemn the Chinese government's crimes, which they have alleged in their preamble, against the Falun Gong practitioners, and have asked that Canada speak out at the United Nations. I am tabling this petition on their behalf.

Privilege April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the second question of privilege is one that might be considered minor in terms of monetary amounts but it is an irritation and it is a possible overzealous interpretation, in my view, of the manual of members' services.

On October 28, 2005, I was contacted by a newspaper called The Interim to place my usual Christmas greetings. I have placed my Christmas greetings in that newspaper for at least the last 16 years. Immediately my office indicated that I would be prepared to place my Christmas greetings in The Interim that year. The cost of that was $100 plus 7% GST which is $107.

On November 24, 2005, Interim Publishing mailed me the expected invoice for $107. That invoice arrived in my office on December 1, obviously mailed before the election and arrived after the election was called. I approved the invoice for payment on December 3 and sent it in. It was rejected. The reason given to me for the rejection was section 6.2 of the Members' Allowances and Services manual entitled Constituency Offices and Services. I say parenthetically that this has nothing to do with my constituency office. I have dealt with this through my Ottawa office for 15 and a half years.

In any event, under the heading Constituency Offices and Services it states:

Advertising: Because of certain restrictive provisions of the Canada Elections Act, Members are not allowed to use their Member’s Office Budget to advertise during dissolution up to and including election day. Members should review and cancel their advertising commitments.

Being a lawyer I wanted to check everything out so I contacted The Interim and I received a written letter indicating that the particular issue had been published and mailed to the public on November 25, four days before the election was called. I had approved it a month before the election was called. It had been prepared and mailed before the election was called.

House administration believes that under the heading of advertising in section 6.2 it indicates that the invoice could not be paid even though I could not possibly cancel my advertising commitments since they had already occurred and since the matter was already being delivered across Canada. By the way, this paper goes across Canada, not into the riding of Scarborough Southwest exclusively so that I might be re-elected.

In my view, my privileges as a member have been breached because we are entitled to advertise. I believe I have complied with all of the rules and regulations but House of Commons officials have taken an interpretation which I believe to be too restrictive under the very unique circumstances that occurred. Everybody knows I have no control over the timing of an election. I did not know an election was going to be called. Had an election been called before the issue had gone to press I would have been happy to cancel it. However since it had already been mailed it was too late.

In this instance I would suggest that if you find that there is at least a prima facie case of privilege this matter could be referred by way of motion to the Board of Internal Economy to examine it.

I say parenthetically as well that there were numerous members of Parliament on both sides of the House who also advertised in that particular edition of that particular newspaper. I do not know how many of them had their particular request for payment authorized or how many of them were rejected. If any of them were authorized, then mine should have been authorized. If they were all rejected, then I would suggest that all of those bills be reviewed and that the wording of that particular section be very carefully examined by the Board of Internal Economy.

The bureaucrats who service us as members of Parliament are not agents of Elections Canada which has its own people. If for some reason Elections Canada believes this particular expense should be included within election expenses, then that is something that my campaign and Elections Canada will work out individually. I ask that this matter also be found to be a prima facie case and referred to the Board of Internal Economy.

I hope on both of these issues I will have the support of the House.

Privilege April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, the first question involves an issue which arose during the election campaign in my capacity as a member of Parliament, and obviously the earliest opportunity to raise it is this morning. In order for you to understand what has occurred, I have to give a bit of background.

In the 38th Parliament I was a member of the House Subcommittee on Public Safety and National Security of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The House of Commons had charged that committee in December 2004 to study and report to the House of Commons within one year on Bill C-36, the Anti-terrorism Act. The subcommittee finished its hearing of witnesses in October or November, I cannot quite recall which, and we were just about ready to sit down to begin deliberations of our report when the election was called.

When the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of the time appeared before the committee, they came with a number of officials, two of whom, Mr. Stanley Cohen and Mr. Douglas Breithaupt, were identified as the experts on the Anti-terrorism Act. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of the time invited me, if I wished to, to contact these two gentlemen and any others through his office if I wished to discuss any matters with respect to Bill C-36.

Of course, the election occurred, and it occurred to me as an individual who never likes to go down a one-way street that there are always two possibilities in an election: one either wins or loses. I was hoping I would win, of course, but I thought that in the event I were to lose I had put over a year's work into this committee and had 104 recommendations and questions that I wanted to put to the ministry so that it would have the benefit of my views. I therefore sought a meeting with these two individuals so I might communicate these 104 points to them, so that in the event that perchance I was defeated in the election, at least the work that I had done would survive by having been passed over to the appropriate justice department officials.

I began by doing everything in accordance with the channels of communication that I was told to do, namely, I contacted the then parliamentary secretary and asked that he arrange a meeting with these two individuals. I did not hear back, so on Monday, December 12, I contacted Mr. Stanley Cohen directly through my office. When I say “I”, I mean my office. We got his voice mail. We left a detailed message explaining why I wished to speak to Mr. Cohen and asked that he call me back.

Mr. Cohen did not call me back, so on the following day my assistant called and talked to his office coordinator and assistant, Linda Ménard. Actually, we got her voice mail. Again it was explained what I wanted. When he had not heard back by 2 p.m., he called again. She answered and they had a conversation in which it was explained what the purpose of my call was and why I wanted to speak to Mr. Cohen. She assured my assistant that Mr. Cohen had received my message and would return my call.

By Wednesday I had not received a call from Mr. Cohen. I began to get frustrated. I called the chief of staff for the then Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Hilary Geller, and explained the difficulty. She indicated that she understood there was a PCO directive that had gone out instructing bureaucrats not to speak to members of Parliament during an election campaign. I indicated that I wanted to speak with justice officials and spoke with the chief of staff of the Minister of Justice. His name is Jonathan Herman. He said he would contact Mr. Cohen personally and suggest that he at the very least return my call. Mr. Cohen never returned my call.

My assistant then called his assistant again on December 14 and left a message explaining that I was getting more and more frustrated. She returned the call and indicated that Mr. Cohen was not going to be available for two or three days. In my view, it became clear at that point that Mr. Cohen's office was being intentionally uncooperative in returning my telephone calls.

I then turned my attention to Mr. Doug Breithaupt, who was the second gentleman who had been identified as an expert. My assistant called his direct line and left a message on December 15 and also spoke to his assistant, who suggested that I make the request by e-mail. I made the request to Mr. Breithaupt by e-mail, asking that he contact me. Mr. Breithaupt did not return my call or respond to my e-mail.

I tried to find out what was going on. Since it had been suggested that it was the PCO that had issued the directive, my assistant contacted the PCO. We contacted the clerk's office there through the then Prime Minister's switchboard, asking them what kind of directive had gone out to bureaucrats not to speak with members of Parliament during an election.

A Hali Gernon returned the call, indicating that she was not aware of any such directive but that it would not have come from the communications and consultation section, which is where she worked, if it had been issued. My assistant then spoke with the PCO clerk's office manager on December 15 and explained my problem. By the following Friday, my assistant had not heard, so again called. She indicated that she had just been told that the PCO had not issued a directive and that it may have come from the Public Service Commission.

My assistant then immediately called the Public Service Commission and spoke with Debra Crawford, director of parliamentary affairs, who, believe it or not, did return our call. She said that the Public Service Commission had posted clear guidelines for the impartiality of public servants on the PSC website, but in no way do those indicate that bureaucrats cannot speak to MPs. In fact, she said that MPs and their office staffs continue to receive regular service for their daily business with the public, and of course I knew that because we were dealing with them.

My assistant indicated the problem and that we had come full circle. I still had not been able to speak with these two officials, nor had I been able to receive a copy of any written directive to the public service indicating that no one should speak to members of Parliament.

On Monday, December 19, not having had at least the courtesy of a telephone call from either of these two gentlemen to explain that they, in their view, could not speak to me, I then called the Deputy Minister of Justice, John Sims. The Deputy Minister of Justice did not return my call either; however, Melissa Cassar, from the then Minister of Justice's office, called and indicated that there could be no conversations because of an e-mail prohibiting bureaucrats from speaking to members of Parliament. I asked for a copy of that e-mail from Melissa and of course she could not locate such an e-mail.

The reason I am raising this is that, in my view, my abilities as a member of Parliament have been impaired. In my opinion, and I believe this is correct, we remain members of Parliament, and certainly our constituents consider us to be members of Parliament, until the actual date of the writ. That is why they continue to come into our office. That is why they continue to ask for our help.

I can understand if there would be some sort of a directive from bureaucrats, but it seems incumbent that if there is a direction to bureaucrats it should also be given to members of Parliament, so that we know, first of all, who gave that direction not to speak to members of Parliament, second, on what basis that direction was given, and third, so that we have some input into coming up with some kind of reasonable policy during an election period.

What I have determined as a result of my experience is that either there is no such vague policy directive or, if there is, everybody is afraid to show it to a member of Parliament. I believe that has breached my privileges as a member of Parliament to effectively exercise my duties. Let us suppose I had not been running for election. Let us suppose I was going to retire, wanted to finish off some files before I did so and called these justice department officials to try to finish off some of these files. Even though I was not seeking re-election, according to this phantom directive they would have been prohibited from speaking to me.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is completely outrageous and I believe it is a breach of my privileges, and if you so find, on a prima facie basis, I would be prepared to move a motion to refer this matter for further study to the procedure and House affairs committee. That is the first point.

Privilege April 6th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions of privilege. How do you want me to proceed? Did you wish me to proceed with both at once or one at a time?

Civil Marriage Act June 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my position has been clear from 16 years ago. It has not changed one iota so I do not know what the hon. member is talking about. I have been consistent throughout in my opposition to same sex marriage. It is not a right. It never has been a right. It is a question of whether society wants to allow it as a matter of social policy. Even the Supreme Court did not say it was a right.

As for the comment that the section is declaratory, I already dealt with that and so did the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said that even if it is declaratory it is of “no effect and is superfluous”. If the Supreme Court has said that something is of no effect and superfluous, why in heaven's name legally is it in the bill?

Civil Marriage Act June 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I think the important thing on Motion No. 3 to delete clause 3 is that there is no emotion involved here. This is a purely legal fact. The Supreme Court has already ruled that clause 3 and its variants are ultra vires the Parliament of Canada. How in heaven's name can anyone put something into a bill that is already stated to be ultra vires? The reason has to be and can only be for political motivation.

There are many lawyers in the House. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice is a lawyer. The critic for the Bloc Québécois is a lawyer. I defy any of them to stand here and distinguish clause 3 from section 2 in the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada. It cannot be done.

This is simply political sleight of hand to try to trap people into believing that they are getting something that they are not getting. It is absolutely shameful that it is even in this bill.

Civil Marriage Act June 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, that was a political speech, but let me say this. My advice to the Conservative Party is not to worry about what the Liberals are going to say but rather to do what is right. The Conservatives know it is right to defeat clause 3 because they know it is unconstitutional. They should defeat clause 3 and not worry about what the Liberal Party is going to say about it, because sensible people will know that they have done the right thing for the right reasons.

There is no excuse for the Bloc not to protect the provincial rights of the provinces and not to support my motion to delete clause 3. The Bloc constantly says it is there to protect the provinces. This is an attack on the rights of the provinces under the Constitution and yet the Bloc does not say a thing about it.

I do not need any lectures from the other side about what to do or what not to do. Six members of that party were not there. If he counts the numbers, he will figure it out himself.