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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was debate.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 48% of the vote.

Statements in the House

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite attentively to what the hon. member had to say about the bill. He said that the priority in the negotiations between the government and the New Democratic Party, as he referred to it, was buying, or selling in the case of the New Democrats, their support. Under that rationale, presumably, since he agreed with Bill C-43, he was similarly selling his support because he was supporting something that he himself agreed with.

Perhaps he could explain to us why it is that something is immoral in his view when it involves two other parties supporting each other but the rationale is different if he himself is one of the parties involved. Perhaps he could explain to us how that particular construct works in his own mind, because this has some of us a little bewildered.

Second, the hon. member talked about the amendments that he and his party wanted to make to the bill. I am looking at some of the amendments. I would be very curious to hear him indicate to us how he feels that passing these amendments, which he said were with the view of improving the bill, would in fact make it better.

The third proposition I have to raise with him is this. He said that the priorities of the government, a government that he says has sold out to the NDP or however he put it, are wrong because that money is for the NDP.

As far as I know, when I look at the list of items here, (a), (b), (c) and (d), I do not think the NDP is going to get a cent of the extra $900 million for the environment. There is money for supporting training programs, post-secondary education, aboriginal Canadians and so on, at $1.5 billion. I do not think NDP members are studying now; they are doing their work in the House. On the issue of $1.6 billion for affordable housing, does he not think these are Canadian citizens receiving these benefits?

Finally, on the issue of foreign aid, this is not an amount to be given outright. It is to be assigned to the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA. At one time I was the minister responsible for CIDA. It is to be assigned to CIDA to administer and increase the programs by which non-governmental organizations and others do good work on behalf of the people of Canada.

Worldwide, CIDA is one of the most respected international development organizations that exists. It has an excellent reputation. I have travelled around the world leading that group and I know its reputation. Does the hon. member not think that CIDA, which already administers over $3 billion a year, cannot administer the funds in this budget bill?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague on his presentation today.

I found one aspect of his speech especially interesting. It was when he said that the people of Canada had chosen a minority government, that is, a government that turned out to be a minority because of its representation here in this House. Of course, the public does not choose the government directly, but elects a number of members of each party, which then determines the distribution of the members in the House.

That said, my colleague and I will agree that the public decided this Parliament should function. The ballot was not marked, “We do not want this Parliament to function”. So the public gave all parliamentarians, collectively, the mandate to get Parliament to work.

In his presentation, my colleague has just pointed out that an integral part of the mandate is to negotiate with the other political parties in this House to ensure good governance of the country. Does he not agree with me that Bill C-48 is in a way evidence of this desire to have Parliament work and in the best interests of Canadians?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, my colleague invited me to note some of his remarks. I was pleased to listen to the entire speech, but there were a couple of things missing from what he said.

The hon. member talked about the environment. It is a big concern for many of us. He no doubt will remember that it was his own party, perhaps under his leadership--I forget whether he was the environment critic then--that opposed so ferociously the Kyoto accord, where all countries need to get together to improve on the quality of the environment.

I live in the province of Ontario downwind from the Ohio-Mississippi Valley. I know what it is like to live in the area of that smog. I have lived here all my life. Most of that smog is generated in the United States, more particularly, a lot of it in the states of Ohio and Michigan.

In addition, he will no doubt know that under the Conservative premiership of Mike Harris and his successor in Ontario, there was no action on the plans which probably by now would have shut down the largest source of pollution in North America, the Nanticoke coal fired generating station on the shores of Lake Erie. None of this happened after the years of Conservative government that we had in Ontario. The Government of Canada does not generate electricity at Nanticoke. That is the largest single source of pollution.

Second, I never was satisfied, nor were my constituents, as to why the member so vehemently opposed the Kyoto protocol enabling Canada and other countries to get together, put pressure on the United States and anyone else who is not joining in so that we can together fight the pollution that exists in the northern hemisphere.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for some of his points. He talked about the high interest rates. I remind him that when the interest rates were at their high during the Reagan right-wing years, the Canadian rates were higher than the U.S. rates. Under this government the Canadian rates have been at par with or often lower than the U.S. rates because of the excellent management.

The hon. member corrected me about the Progressive Conservatives versus the present Conservatives and I do apologize for that. I do not want anyone across the way to think that I accused them of being progressive.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, he asked a question. He should listen to the answer.

The hon. member is arguing, of course, that there is not enough assistance to agriculture. For the beef producers of my area, and of course for the dairy producers and in regard to the cull cattle and so on, there is only one long term solution and that is opening up the Canada-U.S. border. We all know, of course, that this is the case. Some 50% of all the cattle produced in Canada are for export.

The hon. member asked me to comment on the legitimacy of the government. I believe he asked a question about the confidence vote. He will know that a motion referring something to a committee is not a confidence vote. No one really believes that, and I suspect that not even he does.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I sympathize very much with the plight of farmers, both in the constituency that I represent and the hon. member's riding.

I do not think the hon. member was here in the previous Parliament, or perhaps he was, when a number of us worked together in the hay west campaign to assist people in another part of the country. The member may remember my involvement in that campaign. The Saskatchewan federation of municipalities gave me recognition in that regard and I appreciated it very much.

On the issue of assistance to farmers, the hon. member will know, of course, that although it is not part of the companion document, it was part of the other one. The hon. member will know that.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

I hear the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke heckling. I was writing my memoirs and reminding myself of the day that I went to make an announcement in Haley Station in her riding. The evening before, my staff gave advance information to the hon. member. Instead of respecting the usual rules of confidentiality, she leaked the whole thing to the media, trying to grab a few of the headlines, and even invented for herself some praise as to how she had influenced the process.

The story gets a little bit funnier, because a little later after the announcement was made we returned to the House and the hon. member's seatmate was standing right beside her questioning the same program that she had been praising in her own riding just a few minutes before, namely, the technology partnership program. Thus, we had an Alliance MP, now called Conservative, which is the same thing anyway, standing in the House telling the Prime Minister that, first, it was terrible that we had the technology partnership program and, second, that it assisted companies like Bombardier.

Meanwhile, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, still wearing egg on her face from what she had just done, was sitting right beside the member and it was obviously unbeknownst to her that her colleague was criticizing the program that not only was she complimenting but was taking credit for bringing to her own constituency.

That tells us of the Conservatives' inconsistency and how they can be wrong about good Liberal programs. In that case, and it is a rare exception, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke was right in praising the program. She was wrong in taking credit for it, of course, and we all know that, but she at least was on the right track in that regard.

In any event, let us get back to the fiscal and economic facts of Canada. It is important for us to note that under this very competent Liberal government we have had eight consecutive budgetary surpluses, reducing our federal debt by $61 billion.

The House would no doubt want to know how many times the previous Conservative government had a balanced budget and a budgetary surplus. How about zero for the previous Conservative government? It never had a balanced budget, not even once, let alone the repayment of old debt. More than half of the accumulated debt of this country was generated between 1984 and 1993 when I sat on the opposition benches there, watching the Conservative government of the day.

Canada was the only G-7 nation to record a surplus in 2004. You would know that, Mr. Speaker, being the independent, objective person that you are. Canada is the only G-7 country expected to remain in surplus in 2005-06, that is, with the passage of Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, we will be the only G-7 country to be in a surplus.

I remind the House of what I said a few moments ago about the Conservative years. That is the reality. They can try to spin it every which way they like, but it does not change facts.

Let me get to some other facts here. The debt to GDP ratio of this country, that is, the debt to gross domestic product ratio, is now 41%. Shortly after we took power it had risen to 68%. It went from the second highest in the G-7 to now the lowest debt to GDP ratio, thanks to the Liberal government that we have now. The hon. members across the way obviously did not know of this when they said they were against Bill C-48. Perhaps listening to these clarifications will make them change their minds.

Furthermore, there are tax cuts of $100 billion for Canadians. The Conservative members do not mention this, of course.

We could talk about corporate taxes, which are in many ways more advantageous here than in the States. The Economist says that, in terms of a political environment attractive to investment, Canada is second in the world behind Denmark and ahead of the United States. This is an achievement of our government.

The members opposite do not mention this. They might do well to listen. Better yet, I have statistics that might convince a reasonable person who thought otherwise. This might leave out some of the members opposite, as they are not always reasonable.

We have increased our commitment to health care. There is a lot of discussion about that. We made $63 billion available in support to the provinces for health care between 2000-01 and 2007-08. We provided more money for the child tax credit. We improved the Canada pension plan by investing funds and by creating the regulatory framework that everyone is familiar with.

We have invested. A little earlier today, one Conservative member was speaking about investing, a member for whom I have a lot of respect and who is usually knowledgeable on issues involving research and so on. I am sorry, but I forget the name of his riding. He talked about not investing enough in research and innovation.

I do not know how much is enough, but we have invested $13 billion in research and innovation, turning Canadian universities and research centres into world leaders, including, for instance, the synchrotron in the province of Saskatchewan, which I had the pleasure of visiting during my last days as a minister. I guess time flies; it is a year and a half now since I have had such a function.

Let us end by talking about unemployment. The Canadian economy created 35,000 jobs last month alone. There is 6.8% unemployment now in Canada, compared to 11.2% when we took power, and three million more Canadians are working today than when we were elected. I will be leaving in the next election, but I will be proud that three million more Canadians are working since I crossed from the opposite side of the floor to this one.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I want to take just a minute to speak on Bill C-48.

Contrary to what the opposition has been claiming, this is not the budget. The budget per se of course is a document that is read in the House and tabled under a ways and means motion. We then have a list of companion bills to implement the overall thrust of the budget.

The first one, the main budget bill, was Bill C-43. It was adopted and sent to the other place. Now we have the second, the companion bill, pursuant to an agreement that was made between two parties of the House, and which I must say in my opinion improves upon the document that was there already. It delivers additional benefits to Canadians.

It does not rewrite the budget. It is not a new budget. It is nothing of the sort. That is simply nonsense. If we did all that, if it was an overall change of the kind described by the Conservatives across the way, we certainly would not be affecting only a small fraction of the budget.

Let us get a few facts straight, because we are a little short on facts today. That is mainly due to the fact that too many Conservatives have spoken and not enough Liberals. That would provide a shortage of facts. This is definitely too heavily weighted on the Conservative side.

Let me bring a few things in balance which might assist the House, hopefully convince the Conservatives of the error of their ways, and perhaps even convince them to vote for Bill C-48.

Infrastructure June 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to be able to recognize the investment promised by the Government of Canada to the communities in Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

As part of the new deal for cities and communities, the government will divert over $13 million in revenues from the gasoline tax directly to the 10 municipalities in my riding. These funds will help all the communities to improve their infrastructure, thereby improving the quality of life there.

I look forward to seeing progress on the innovative projects this money will make possible.

I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities on this excellent initiative.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments June 21st, 2005

I know that Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher. I have quoted him extensively in the past.

The hon. member across will know that what he was saying about the state of the human mind when people do not look out for the greater good can happen. I happen to think that there is room in our society to make things better by pooling the resources of this society for the greater good.

I believe that this is the right way of looking at things. We have examples in some provincial jurisdictions, in Quebec for instance, with the day care system. I think that has been a good experience in that province. We are now enabling other provinces to do the same thing. What is wrong with that?