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

Avian Flu April 20th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in this important debate regarding avian influenza.

The past year has certainly been a challenging one for agriculture and the agri-food industry. What with BSE, drought in some areas of the country, flooding in others, trade issues and now avian flu, the industry has been burdened with many hardships.

The Government of Canada is working side by side with the provinces and the industry to help our farmers, our farm families and the entire valued chain to get through these tough times and to continue its world-class status as a producer of safe, high quality food.

I would like to point out that the Government of Canada acted quickly and decisively to deal with avian flu. Earlier this month we made the hard decision to depopulate all commercial poultry flocks and other backyard bird and smaller operations referred to in the control area in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. This serious measure was necessary, first, to prevent the spread of the disease and second, to help us quickly eradicate it.

As drastic as this measure seems, it is in fact the safest way to get the growers to restock their operations. However, in the meantime it is our priority to keep as much of the poultry business in British Columbia, particularly in the control areas, afloat and doing business. For growers who will have to wait for the green light to restock, there are a number of measures in place to support them until they are back in business.

We are also working to keep continued access to supply for the processing sector. The chicken industry of Canada is showing remarkable determination, working together to supply the B.C. market. This is one of the strengths of supply management.

First and foremost, we see farmers helping farmers, supplying the product from the rest of Canada to the B.C. processing industry for further processing and distribution. If after this has been fully utilized there is still a market shortage in B.C., then and only then will we consider how supplementary imports can fill that gap.

Our focus has been to support directly the B.C. industry in maintaining its long term viability and customers as we work to restore the B.C. flocks.

Within supply management we take care of our own. All members of the affected sectors, the farmers, the processors and others, both in B.C. and nationally, are working hard together to meet the challenge facing the B.C. industry.

Through Canada's supply management system, chicken producers in other provinces plan to increase their own production by 10% and supply the B.C. primary processors with those extra birds. This will maintain a minimum of processing operations and reduce the impact on employees. This initiative will ensure that B.C. processors and consumers have access to all the poultry products they need.

I would like to add at this point that the cooperative approach being taken by the federal government, the province of British Columbia, the poultry industry in that province and the industry throughout the rest of Canada is truly commendable. It is truly the Canadian way.

Recognizing the challenge our colleagues in the B.C. poultry sector are facing, the industry throughout Canada is chipping in to supply that province to keep processors processing and consumers consuming. There is an old saying: Through adversity comes strength and through strength comes perseverance, and everybody's efforts are truly commendable.

Of course this issue is not just one of business and commerce, it is a human issue affecting farmers and family farms. Under the Health of Animals Act, compensation cheques to the owners of animals ordered destroyed are being issued. Farmers are being paid market value for their stock. As of April 16, 23 compensation cheques have gone out for a total of $2.4 million.

The elimination of the disease will require special sanitizing of barns and farms before population can restart. If depopulation eliminates the disease, as hoped, restocking could start again in late summer or early fall this year.

In the meantime, these farmers and farm families who produce supply managed commodities are eligible underneath the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program. The CAIS program is available to provide assistance to these producers whose production margins drop by more than 30%.

Our federal officials are also working very closely with provincial officials and industry leaders to help producers better understand how the disaster component of CAIS could support their income during this difficult period. Information sessions on CAIS are being held for farmers on April 26 and 27 in Chilliwack and Abbotsford. In addition, a federal-provincial letter with a simplified application form has been sent to all producers to make it easier for them. A federal-provincial avian flu working group has also been struck to examine the economic impacts created by the flu outbreak.

There is also assistance to ensure that the industry understands how the employment insurance program can help affected employees. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada officials are on the ground in the affected areas to provide assistance through its work sharing and EI programs information services. Some 50 regular EI claims have been received to date, with hundreds more expected. If mass layoffs occur, HRSDC officials will offer group information sessions at either the employer's premises or a mutually agreed upon site. Mass EI claims-taking will also be available, as will the information on the work sharing program.

We recognize that all aspects of the poultry industry in British Columbia are under severe pressure. The situation is extremely complex, but great effort is being made to carefully analyze it on an ongoing basis to ensure that the right policies are in place to resolve the crisis and minimize the time needed for the industry to recover.

We are in constant contact with the province and the industry to ensure that their views and advice are taken into account in the decision-making process as this issue unfolds. I am confident that before long we will have this industry solidly on its feet.

I have been a poultry farmer for a very long time. I know the suffering that is going on right now out in B.C. and I take that very much to heart. I have been in conversation with different people from the Fraser Valley and Abbotsford area. I know what they are going through and I know what it is to have one's flock depopulated. It sounds very quick and sanitized, but it is really a heart-rending experience if anyone has ever gone through something similar to that.

I will make my commitment as a member of Parliament, as a chicken farmer and as a very strong supporter of supply management to see the Fraser Valley poultry industry up and running as quickly as possible.

Business of the House April 19th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the emergency debate that has been granted for later today regarding the crisis surrounding avian flu. I believe that you will find unanimous consent to have this debate take place tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 20, 2004. after the completion of private members' business.

Justice April 1st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, in January 2002 the federal government announced that former Quebec Court of Appeal Judge Fred Kaufman would review the Steven Truscott case.

Based on circumstantial evidence, Truscott was convicted of killing 12 year old Lynn Harper in June 1959 near the Clinton air force base. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison and in 1969 he was paroled.

Many people feel that Steven Truscott was wrongfully accused, citing shoddy police work, flawed pathology and evidence never brought to light. All but 14 years of his life have been spent under the dark cloud of a murder conviction.

Judge Kaufman's report was expected in January and has yet to be released. I would hope that this report will be issued as soon as possible so that real justice to Steven Truscott can be done.

Income Tax Act March 31st, 2004

Of course I believe it.

The proposal also raises significant fairness concerns. As a general rule, underneath the current tax system, tax deductions or credits are generally provided for one of two things. They either apply to the expenses incurred to earn income, things like employment insurance premiums, union dues, and child care expenses, or they apply to non-discretionary expenses that significantly reduce a taxpayer's ability to pay tax, such as above average medical expenses.

Tax relief is not normally provided with respect to specific personal expenses that are incurred at an individual's discretion. What message would the federal government be sending if, as the hon. member proposes, we did use the tax system to subsidize those consumers who choose to pay fees to participate in amateur sport? That such fees are more important than other personal expenditures?

We would be asking those Canadians who choose not to pay such fees to subsidize those Canadians who do so. We would be asking Canadians who choose to take part in physical activities such as jogging or cycling, which do not generally require payment of fees, or those who choose to spend their spare time on other non-sport related hobbies or activities, to subsidize those Canadians who choose to participate in sports that do, such as hockey, downhill skiing or golf.

Let us take the specific example of golf. I have many golf courses in my riding. Golf is now the most popular participation sport for Canadians. More than 1.8 million Canadians regularly head to the links for some exercise and friendly competition. Under the hon. member's proposal, we would be asking Canadians to subsidize initiation fees, membership fees and greens fees.

I want to make this clear. The government considers physical activity and sports to be important to Canadian society and they have a positive effect on individuals and on communities. However, there are other personal activities that also lead to the personal betterment of individuals and to the development of healthy and cohesive communities. In engaging in these personal activities, Canadians also face substantial costs.

Let us examine two examples to review whether it would be fair to Canadian consumers to subsidize amateur sport fees and not these other equally important expenditures.

A typical parent with a young daughter may want to encourage that child to be physically active by registering her in the local hockey league. That parent may also choose to register her daughter for singing lessons because the child enjoys it and appears to be talented. Both decisions would support the development of the child and both decisions would see the parent incur costs.

The member's proposal would differentiate between these two types of costs incurred by the parent for the development of her child. The registration fees for hockey would be subsidized by other taxpayers, but the fees for the singing lessons would not be. Both decisions lead to a positive outcome for the child. Only one would get supported by the tax system.

Let us review another situation. A Canadian adult could register to join and participate in a local soccer league and could also choose to buy a subscription to the local theatre. The individual incurs costs in both cases. Both achievements have a positive spin-off effect for the individual and for his community; both activities support the community. However, under the member's proposal, only one of them would be supported by the tax system.

It is for reasons such as these that the Canadian tax system does not generally recognize specific personal expenses such as fees incurred for participation in amateur sport.

In light of what I have discussed, I hope that hon. members present here agree that this private member's bill does not fulfill the criteria of effectiveness and fairness. I would ask that all members think very carefully about voting for the bill.

Income Tax Act March 31st, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill proposes a change to the Income Tax Act that would allow individuals to claim a tax credit for fees paid for their participation, or the participation of a dependant, in amateur sport. We need to review this proposal in light of what it is trying to achieve and how it is trying to achieve it.

First, it would appear that the hon. member's proposal has a clear intent: to encourage Canadians to participate in amateur sport. This is a goal that the government shares with the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. We too recognize the importance of amateur sport in this country and the importance of participation in sport and physical fitness activities.

This year, thanks to the 2004 budget injection of $30 million into the Canadian sport system, we will contribute some $100 million to Sport Canada. Let me tell the members of the House about some of the great things Sport Canada does. It provides funds to amateur sport organizations to increase sport participation, to support the development of young athletes and to improve access to sport for under-represented groups, including people with disabilities and the aboriginal peoples. It provides financial support to Canada's elite athletes to help them with their training and competition needs. It backs a wide range of sporting events held in Canada that are both national and international in scope.

While we may share the member's objectives, and we do, I must say that we do not agree with the approach. The member's proposal suggests changing the tax system. I would contend that using the tax system for this is neither cost effective nor fair. Let us take a closer look at how ineffective the hon. member's proposal would be.

The government is committed to encouraging Canadians to include physical activities in their daily lives and to helping them reduce barriers that prevent them from being active. There are many such barriers. Statistics Canada reports several reasons why Canadians do not participate in amateur sport or fitness activities: lack of time, lack of interest and health, and injury or age concerns.

In fact, we have to look way down the list of the barriers to participation before we get to cost. Very few Canadians consider cost a significant barrier to their participation: only about one in fifty inactive Canadians. In fact, this is not surprising given that there are many activities that are part of a healthy lifestyle and cost very little. Swimming, walking and cycling are good examples.

What does this mean? Clearly it means that the hon. member's proposal would do very little to encourage inactive Canadians to become active in amateur sport or to increase their level of physical activity. In other words, this proposal would be ineffective.

Even though this proposal would be ineffective, it would come at a very high cost. According to Statistics Canada the average Canadian household spends approximately $275 on recreational facilities and membership fees each year. Providing a 16% tax credit on these expenditures would cost the federal government almost half a billion dollars in tax revenue. Again, the money would be spent without having a significant impact on the level of physical activities of Canadians.

In fact, almost all of this tax money would end up subsidizing the 8.3 million Canadian adults already participating in amateur sport. Therefore, at a great cost, the hon. member's proposal would produce very little benefit in terms of increasing participation in amateur sport and fitness activities.

The Budget March 30th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, this is a bit of déjà vu for me today. The first time I rose in the House to speak on a budget was the 1994-95 budget when this government first came in. In 10 years a lot has happened, and it has been very positive.

When I spoke at that point in time, our country had approximately $580 billion worth of accumulated public debt. We were running a $42.5 billion deficit. Unemployment in the country was over 11%. The interest rates were over 11%, and everybody was worried about their jobs, their paycheques and their houses, if they could even afford to have one.

Today, with the 2004-05 budget, it is like night and day. Unemployment is down around the 7% mark. Interest rates are at a 40-year low. We are the only country in the G-7 and the G-8 that is consistently running surplus budgets. The people at home now are not worried about their jobs. They are not worried about their paycheques. They probably have a house now because interest rates are so low they can afford one. That is what has happened.

What I am saying is each budget is a building block. We started in 1994-95 on a good direction and we are on that same path now with the 2004-05 budget. I ask any Canadian to make a comparison of where we were and where we are. Of course this budget is set in the direction of where we want to go.

From that, we have to take a look back to where we were. Debt is a huge expense within a budget. At that point in time, accumulated public debt versus GDP, that would be one's mortgage versus one's paycheque, was over 68%. Today it is sitting at 42%. We have made a commitment that in 10 years time it will be at 25%.

When we were first elected to the House and crafted that first 1994-95 budget, we were also spending almost 37¢ on the tax dollar taken in to service the debt, not pay it off. We are now down to around 21¢ on the dollar, and still dropping. That means, as we keep lowering the debt and lowering the service costs on that, we automatically have savings. We have had savings on $52 billion paid off in accumulated public debt in the last couple of budgets alone of over $3 billion.

Surpluses happen when the economy is good. However, if the economy ever turned bad, surpluses very quickly disappear. However, once our debt is under control, savings within the budget on debt reduction happens every year. If the economy does slow down, we still have those savings. Those savings can then be put into programs to make Canada more competitive and a better place to live.

When I was chair of the national rural caucus, one of the things we argued for and received, and it has actually been enhanced in this budget, was money for rural Canada, in rural infrastructure. We must remember that in Canada today approximately 20% of the population lives on 80% of the land and 80% of the population lives on 20% of the land. If we take a look at the infrastructure within cities compared to the infrastructure of rural Canada, it is approximately the same. We just do not have a lot of people on both sides of the road. However, we still have roads to build, repair and maintain, along with bridges and any other infrastructure that goes along with them, such as water, sewers, whatever. Rural Canada needs an injection of cash just the same as urban Canada needs.

There was an injection of cash within this budget amounting to $1 billion, which was originally to be over 10 years. That has now been accelerated to $1 billion over five years. This is almost like a 100% increase.

Municipalities across Canada have been given relief from the GST. We have given them a rebate. That, in essence, gives those municipalities that normally would have transferred this money to us, an extra $7 billion to work with over the next 10 years.

What does this mean to those municipalities? Smaller municipalities of 250,000 people and under could receive anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 a year. That would build a lot of roads and put in a lot of infrastructure. Toronto has a lot of problems right now with its public transit system, and it alone will benefit by over $50 million a year from the GST rebate.

We have seen a lot happen in that 10 year period. However, we have to build on our future too. Our future lies with our upcoming youth, and from that our education system. The government has allowed $20 million to offset the individual costs of research by universities and research hospitals. If Canada, as an exporting nation, is to be cutting edge, we have to have R and D. If not, then we definitely will end up with a major problem.

Canada's relationship to the world is important. As the former parliamentary secretary for international trade, I found it was important for the country to expand its relationship and trade with other countries, such as APEC, the Asian-Pacific Economic Council, and Caricom, the Caribbean countries.

An additional $250 million has been provided in the budget to cover Canada's costs in peacekeeping initiatives within Afghanistan and to fight terrorism. When I was at APEC, that was one of the things about which countries were talking. Canada's decision not to go to war with Iraq impressed those countries. Canada, as a peacekeeping country, has to keep putting a strong position forward on this, on a multilateral basis.

With regard to trade, $1.9 billion Canadian crosses over the U.S. border each day. Over the last two years, we watched with a lot of interest the United States in a recession. Normally, Canada exports 44% of what we produce. Of that, 85% goes to the United States. It used to be if the United States got a sniffle, we had pneumonia. In the last two years when the United States had a recession, Canada did not. We have to ask ourselves why? If this happened in the past, why did it not happen this time?

One reason is because we have our debt under control and that gives our economy stability. That has helped us out because it has actually stabilized the value of the Canadian dollar, and low interest rates have given Canadians a lot more economic flexibility than what they had in the past.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the environmental aspect within the budget. When I was chair of the national rural caucus, I pushed very hard for ethanol production in Canada. I now see, with the budget's building blocks, that we are beginning to establish an ethanol industry, and I think that is excellent.

Customs Tariff March 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, let us just do a bit of a history lesson for the member across the way.

In 1993, when we were doing the negotiations there were 117 nations involved in the WTO. Of that, 116 were going to vote against article XI. The last two months after the October election, when we came in, we renegotiated with the industry internally and came up with the trade rate quotas, the TRQs.

My question for the hon. member across the way is this. Is he saying we should have stuck with article XI, knowing full well we would lose and thereby destroy supply management?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act March 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting in favour of this motion.

Supply March 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting in favour of this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-451, an act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code.

The member has identified an issue that is also of deep concern to us on this side of the House. Violence in the workplace, how to identify it, how to control it and how to respond to it when it does occur, is a policy area that the Minister of Labour and her officials in the labour program are engaged in very closely.

Some recent high-profile cases have drawn public attention to the issues related to workplace safety and have highlighted the importance of having appropriate legislation and procedures in place to protect employees from harmful situations.

Naturally we are concerned when events occur that put workers at an unusual risk, and we are firmly committed to responding to these kinds of situations with all means at our disposal, but creating a healthy and safe work environment where all employees are treated with respect and dignity all of the time is among the most fundamental objectives of this government. Workplace safety is a matter of ongoing interest to this government and we are working on it on a number of fronts.

In this context, the Canada Labour Code is one of the key instruments available to us. As members of this House will recall, there are three parts to the Canada Labour Code. Part I deals with industrial relations matters such as work stoppages, arbitration, conciliation and so on. Part II deals with workplace health and safety and matters like workplace violence and harassment, including the issue of psychological harassment that Bill C-451 raises. Part III deals with workplace standards such as vacation entitlements, family benefits like maternity leave and so on.

A few years ago, when this House approved changes to part II of the Canada Labour Code, the part that deals with workplace health and safety, the changes included the authority to introduce regulations that would require employers to “prevent and protect against violence in the workplace”.

As a follow-up to that change, a working group, including representatives of the public service unions and the Treasury Board secretariat, was set up to study the situation and to make recommendations to the Minister of Labour on regulations that would give substance to that authority.

The working group drew its members from three sources: representatives of employers in the federal jurisdiction, representatives of employees, and officials of the federal labour program. In other words, its membership is drawn from all three stakeholder groups in the federal jurisdiction. In fact, the group is called the tripartite working group to reflect its representation from all three parties in the federal jurisdiction.

The working group has met a number of times. Much of their early discussion revolved around the physical aspects of workplace violence, but their discussions eventually broadened out to include the psychological dimension of violence in the workplace too. This means that the expert working group has been studying and discussing the very same issue, psychological harassment, that Bill C-451 is raising.

It is interesting to note that the working group is looking at this issue as it relates to part II of the code, the health and safety perspective, but Bill C-451 asks us to amend part III of the code, the part that deals with workplace standards, not health and safety issues.

Since other experts see this as a health and safety issue, and since the House already agreed to deal with the issue of workplace violence under part II of the code when the act was last amended, it does not make sense to start to confuse the issue by bringing it in under part III, as Bill C-451 asks us to do. Moreover, it is part II of the Canada Labour Code that applies to the federal public service, the target group of this bill, not part III.

Instead, the Public Service of Canada falls under Treasury Board policies on workplace harassment. In fact, Treasury Board introduced this policy to protect its employees from harassment more than 20 years ago. At that time it was the first employer in Canada to include personal harassment and abuse of authority as forms of harassment in its policy.

That policy was updated in 2001 when a revised policy on prevention and resolution of workplace harassment was announced. The updated policy defines harassment as “any improper conduct by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace, and that the individual knew, or ought to reasonably have known, would cause offence or harm”.

The policy goes on to describe any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles, or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat as harassment. It also includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Therefore, the government is engaged on a number of fronts to address the issues that were raised by Bill C-451.

Another concern about the bill has to do with timing. Given the activities of the tripartite working group, as I have mentioned, and the expectation that the group will report to the minister soon, the timing is very bad for bringing forward a new bill.

The expert working group has been discussing the development of new regulations covering workplace violence for some time. These discussions have included consideration of the same issue and psychological harassment which are raised by Bill C-451.

Since this consultative group is expected to report in the near future, I personally want to wait to see what regulations are recommended to address the concerns that are raised by Bill C-451. It is also important to note that the Canada Labour Code is not the only vehicle the government has to address the issues like workplace harassment.

Another instrument is the Canadian Human Rights Act. This federal legislation is already in place to protect employees from discrimination or harassment because of their personal characteristics or beliefs and that applies to all workers under the federal jurisdiction in Canada.

Like others who follow the workplace issues closely, we have seen a growing concern about the potential for violence in the workplace over the past decade or so. There is now a much greater awareness about the potential for violence in the workplace and its impacts. We know that workplace violence can be psychological as well as physical, but whatever the form, it creates fear, stress and anxiety, and that is damaging to both individual employees and to the organizations.

Those of us on the government side are as concerned about the implications of these developments as anybody else.

The potential for physical and psychological abuse are of particular concern to the government. Federal labour program officials are actively engaged in a process to develop new regulations to deal with these issues.

I share the concerns of the member opposite. I know that we are equally interested in addressing them in a forthright manner; however, I cannot agree with either the substance of the approach being proposed in the bill, nor the timing.

Thus, while I support the underlying objective, I cannot support the bill.