Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was horse.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply February 24th, 2003

Year after year, and now where are we today? We are number one in the G-8. We have become a financial powerhouse on the international stage. We now have our government spending down to 12.2% of GDP. Our accumulated public debt, now sitting at around $536 billion, is now down to 44.5% of our GDP.

With the figures we are putting forward right now and the direction in which we are taking the country, I believe that this government has done a good job, but we always want to listen to the Auditor General. Because if there is any way that we can make the government and the country run more efficiently, I believe that we definitely have to listen to the Auditor General in her report.

I thank the Progressive Conservative Party for putting forward this motion today, although I have to say that I am a little confused. I thought on an opposition day the members might have wanted to talk about something specific, let us say, the environment, the Kyoto protocol, or we could have talked about Iraq. These are all fairly pertinent and very important issues of the day right now, but no, they chose to talk about this and I am more than happy to have been able to give my perspective to you, Mr. Speaker, on where this government is taking Canada into the 21st century.

Supply February 24th, 2003

Sure we do, and Mr. Speaker, I am not ignoring you. I would never do that. I am just responding to the heckling of the member across the way, because I do not know what world he is on, but it is not this one.

In fact, if we take a look at the Government of Canada right now, at our country compared to the G-8, we are the only one with a balanced budget, with a surplus, paying down our debt. I do not know where the member is coming from.

Fifth is to implement a system of full accrual accounting, on the longstanding advice of the Auditor General, to improve the way that the federal government presents its financial statements. Quite frankly, one of the reasons we are able to get to accrual accounting this time is that our financial house is in such good order.

Last is to legislate the termination of the debt servicing and reduction account. We have not limited ourselves to responding only to the suggestions of the Auditor General to improve how we serve Canadians. Budget 2003 announced measures to review current spending to make government more accountable and a better manager of tax dollars. To this end, our government is committed to re-examining government programs to ensure that they are relevant, affordable and efficient.

To that point, when we go through this program review, as I have said before, we want to find the most efficient way of spending the tax dollars. So we can take a look at the programs now and I believe we should start classifying and categorizing them as to what are high priority programs and what are low priority programs. From that, I believe that we can have more efficient spending of tax dollars by targeting high priority programs first and then diminishing funding down to low priorities.

Being more accountable to Canadians also means looking carefully at reallocating government spending, as I have said, from lower to higher priority areas, from less efficient to more effective. In practical terms, this means that beginning in 2003-04 the federal government will reallocate $1 billion per year from existing spending, which will be used to fund those things that matter most to Canadians.

To wrap everything up, we have to take a look at where this country was back in 1993 and where we are today in 2003. By this October, this government will have been on this side of the House for 10 years. Quite frankly, when we came here we inherited a government that was overspending by $42.5 billion a year. We inherited a government that had its debt ratio, accumulated public debt versus GDP, up to almost 70%. We had a government that was actually spending between 14% to 16% of GDP.

Supply February 24th, 2003

We have good budgets every year.

Supply February 24th, 2003

That is right, the member asked for more and we gave it to him.

Our Liberal government values the virtue of accountability and transparency. Canadians expect us to use their hard earned tax dollars in an efficient, prudent manner. Budget 2003 recognized these expectations and committed our government to strengthen accountability and increase transparency. The budget was in part a concerted response to the constructive criticism of the Auditor General. She told us what was wrong. We listened and we fixed it.

Some of the initiatives in Budget 2003 that specifically respond to the concerns of the Auditor General include the following.

First, committing the federal government to begin consultations on a new EI rate setting regime for 2005 and beyond, based on the principles of transparency, and of balancing premier revenues with expected program costs.

Second is to make a number of changes to improve the accountability and governance arrangements of the arm's length foundations. This, in combination with clarifying the policy principles underlying the use of foundations, will ensure their continued effective use.

Third is to create a new Canada health transfer and a new Canada social transfer effective April 1, 2004. This will improve the transparency and the accountability of moneys transferred for health care. This complements the 2003 first ministers health care accord accountability framework, which includes a commitment to report regularly to Canadians on the effectiveness of these transfers.

Fourth is to reinforce accountability and transparency in public reporting. The government will continue to improve the relevance, timeliness and clarity of information it provides to a Parliament.

Supply February 24th, 2003

In response to the member across the way, I have told that at home. The people are in favour of the registry program. When we look at gun control, or as I refer to it gun safety, there are four pillars. Three of the pillars the member' party, the Conservative Party, brought in: first, education; second, licensing; and third, safe storage. Finally, the fourth pillar is the registry.

Supply February 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General of Canada gives Canadians and members of Parliament objective information to help them examine the government's activities and hold it to account. The Liberal government believes the role of the Auditor General is vital. In fact, in 1994 we amended the Auditor General Act to increase the number of reports from a single annual report to four reports annually.

What does all that mean? I believe it means exactly this. In my other life I am an active farmer, a chicken farmer. Every year I sit down with my accountant to look at how my business is progressing, improvements that I should be making to my business and what taxes I am going to pay. It is efficient running of my business. Why? I am not an accountant. I trained as a millwright. Therefore I get someone to look at that for me and to make my business more efficient.

That is exactly what the Auditor General does for the Government of Canada. She looks at how the government runs and operates. She looks at whether the government is effectively spending the money the way it should and whether its programs are efficient or if there is a better way to make government work better.

In addition to strengthening the role of the Auditor General, this government has had a track record of responding in a timely, effective manner to her findings. When the media often focuses on the negative aspects of the Auditor General's report, there are also good news stories. In fact the Auditor General herself said in 2001 that examples of good management sometimes got lost in the glare of publicity that surrounded the bad examples.

The government does about $130 billion in business a year. That is a lot of money. Government is big business. It is in our best interest not only as a government but as the managers for Canada to ensure that we do it the best way possible.

The Auditor General recently praised Industry Canada for making significant improvements to the small business financing program.

Very simply, we look at what the Auditor General has to say about how we operate the government and the country. If she has made specific recommendations for improvements on how we operate, we have responded.

Here are some of the highlights in response to the 2002 report of the Auditor General. These are some things the government has done in response to her recommendations on how to make government operate better.

In her September 2002 report the Auditor General commented that the federal government provided only limited information on its intended total contribution to the provinces and the territories for the future funding of health care. In budget 2003 the federal government responded to this concern by announcing its intention to separate the Canada health and social transfer into the Canada health transfer and Canada social transfer. This will result in a clear accounting of the amount of funding the federal government provides the provinces to help them administer their public health insurance programs.

Quite frankly this has been an irritant for me as a member of Parliament from Ontario because we transfer cash to the provinces for health care but we also give the provinces tax points and we get absolutely no recognition for that at all. I do not feel that is fair. This is something that the provinces asked for back in, I believe, 1995. They said that it would be a more efficient accounting and would a better way of doing things. Now they are now using it against the federal government by not giving us any credit for those tax points. I have said many times in caucus that if they will not give us recognition for them, then we should take them back and give them a cash transfer. That way we will at least get recognition.

The other thing I want to see within the health care situation is better accountability. We know there were some examples last year where high tech money that was supposed to be spent on MRIs and CAT scans was spent on lawnmowers instead. I am a life member of the Association of Kinsmen. If hospitals need lawnmowers, I would tell them to go to the local service club and we will help raise money for that, but do not spend high tech money on low tech problems.

The second is the sponsorship program. In March 2002 the Auditor General was asked by the former minister of public works to review three contracts awarded between 1996 and 1999 to Groupaction. That report was immediately referred to the RCMP, and the cases are under investigation.

On May 26, 2002 the Minister of Public Works imposed a moratorium on the sponsorship program. We were responding. An interim sponsorship program was announced on June 3, 2002 which eliminated the use of external communications agencies.

Finally, on December 17, 2002, the minister announced a new sponsorship program for the 2003-04 fiscal year. That is guided by four key principles: value for money, with which I agree as we want to get the best value for the money spent; stewardship, with which I also agree; flexibility; and finally, transparency. Those I believe are four key pillars with which the opposition and every member in the House would have to agree.

Last but not least, as we have heard here today, is the Canadian firearms program. The government has taken immediate measures to address all the recommendations in the Auditor General's report on the firearms program. Specifically we have introduced Bill C-10A that would cut costs, improve program administration, streamline the process and increase ease of use.

Further on this, on February 21 the Minister of Justice introduced the government's action plan for changes to the management of Canada's gun control program. The plan is the government's blueprint for improving the program's services, transparency and accountability. Clearly we have responded to many of the concerns expressed by the Auditor General and the evidence is before us.

Softwood Lumber February 7th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the member across the way fully knows that we are in negotiations with the United States right now on a long term strategy for softwood lumber and in fact, the WTO is an option that is available to us.

Softwood Lumber February 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, if the member had really read that article he would have found that the minister said first that they were going to work with a long term solution, and if they needed a bridging mechanism like an export tax that is what they would be using.

Softwood Lumber February 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the situation is going to be very simply this: Canada, and the minister is down there right now, is negotiating the best position we can get, and quite frankly we are going to make sure that all provinces are treated equally.

Softwood Lumber February 5th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. What the minister is negotiating right now is a long term solution. If in fact there were going to be an export tax it would be a bridging mechanism only.