Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was point.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Leeds—Grenville (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 33% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions on the Order Paper May 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Government Response to Petitions May 14th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Excise Tax Act May 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague for bringing this matter forward in the informed way that he has.

There are certain constituencies that are calling simply for the government as a short term measure to reduce the federal portion of the tax, somehow suggesting that this will lower the retail price.

I want to quote the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla who, while he was the finance minister in Alberta, was under a great deal of pressure to do just that, to reduce a portion of the tax with the assumption that it would reduce the price at the retail pump. At the time he said:

If we look at lowering the gas tax, what kind of guarantees do we have that the gas retailers will also drop the price, or are they just going to fill in the ditch?

That is a direct quote; it is not a term I would have used, but I think he was on to something. When we cannot determine what supply and demand factors would dictate the retail price to be, either the federal or provincial government's vacating tax room with the understanding that the retail price would go down is probably a very misguided approach.

There is a better approach. The Liberal task force on gasoline pricing looked at the Competition Act and looked at structural reasons within the industry. One of them is the chain of ownership. We proposed divorce legislation. There is Bill C-249 which is presently in the other house. The Liberal members supported it. We did not get similar support from the opposition.

There is no easy fix here, but I want to assure my colleague that we will continue to work extremely hard to minimize the negative aspects of the spike in gasoline prices.

Excise Tax Act May 12th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the question about retail gasoline prices raised by my colleague, the member for Peterborough, on May 6.

Like many of the items that he raises, he seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of the issues that are important to Canadians. He and I served on the task force on gasoline pricing. I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge, for his work there. It certainly provided us with a very thorough grounding on exactly what was happening in the area of gasoline prices.

All of us are concerned with the recent increase in gas prices in Canada and its impact on consumers and businesses. We want to ensure that these prices are a proper reflection of supply and demand. It is therefore important for all Canadians to know why prices have increased.

On May 4, the Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency responsible for the administration of the Competition Act, began a national inquiry regarding gasoline prices. It is examining whether the recent increases in gas prices have resulted from anti-competitive practices in the industry, such as a conspiracy among oil companies to fix or co-ordinate prices, or whether there is some other explanation such as a worldwide or North American supply and demand change.

To examine the issue, the bureau is obtaining data to track pricing trends and will obtain and analyze information from industry experts and participants from all sectors of the petroleum industry to determine whether there has been any breach of the act. More specifically, the bureau is studying refiner margins, crude oil and retail price indices, and other industry data to determine if the recent rapid rise in the price of gas is due to anti-competitive conduct or to other factors.

I can assure hon. members that where the Competition Bureau finds that companies or individuals have engaged in anti-competitive conduct, it does not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action under the Competition Act. Under the criminal provisions of the act, wrongdoers risk fines of up to $10 million for each count and five years in prison.

If anyone has evidence that prices of petroleum products are being set by agreement among competitors and not by market forces, I encourage them to bring the evidence to the Competition Bureau. All information given to the bureau is done so in strictest confidence. There are whistleblowing provisions in the act which protect employees who provide evidence. The bureau also has an immunity program which protects companies from prosecutions and individuals who come forward with information.

Retail gasoline prices around the world reached very high levels last week. This is a worldwide problem. Even so, the latest available data from the International Energy Agency, an autonomous agency linked with the OECD, showed that in March 2004 Canada had lower gasoline prices than most of the other industrialized countries studied.

In May 2003 the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology held hearings to explore possible causes of the February-March 2003 increases in the price of gasoline. The committee tabled its report on November 7, 2003, and concluded that price increases in the February-March period were the result of industry participants, competitive reactions to a series of international crises. The report stated that there was no basis to conclude that there was a conspiracy to raise and fix prices.

The member is absolutely right. Federal taxes on gas are generally lower than the provincial portion, and the excise portion of federal tax is on a per litre basis, so it does not increase when the price increases.

While I realize this is little comfort to consumers who had to pay more to fill their gas tanks, I must remind the hon. members that the Government of Canada does not have the authority to directly regulate retail gasoline prices except in emergency situations. Under the Constitution, the decision whether or not to regulate retail prices rests with the provinces. I should point out that some provinces have used this authority with very mixed results.

Petitions May 10th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, it is an honour for me to table a petition today from constituents in eastern Ontario. The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that the new bill, brought into effect in January 2004, that addresses the six week paid leave to caregivers of terminally ill persons should be amended to include a paid leave of absence, either from the same source or another source, to caregivers of critically ill dependants.

They go on to point out that there may be fewer instances of bankruptcies, marital separation, loss of permanent employment, social assistance, et cetera, if an income protection program were put in place that captured this unaddressed area of health care, which can affect many Canadians unpredictably. To provide peace of mind to those affected Canadians, there should be an official program that could protect them, and that would be accepted by all employers, like the current parental leave legislation.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation to amend the current bill, which went into effect in January, or to pass a new bill that will address this critical area of illness and health care in the country.

Questions on the Order Paper May 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Government Response to Petitions May 7th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 13 petitions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I think I did indicate that the process was underway.

The member constantly cited examples of jobs that are posted in Ottawa which are not available to people who live in other areas of the country. The geographical selection criteria applies to other areas of the country as well. There are jobs in the member's area that people from this region are not allowed to apply for.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the resources and the number of applications. The public service is aware of that. Certainly we are hopeful that the incorporation of new technologies will allow us to process them. I absolutely agree that the solution to the problem, when it is feasible, is to open every job to every Canadian. That is what we are working toward.

The bottleneck in the system now is one of sheer volume. The public service is committed to coming up with a process so that someday we achieve the goal which I think we share.

Budget Implementation Act, 2004 May 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the question about geographic eligibility criteria in public service recruitment.

I commend the member for his interest in this area and his desire to ensure that the public service recruiting policies are fair. I also want to assure him that the government shares his goal. Hence, the government initiated the public service human resource modernization which resulted in legislation that confirms the mandate of the Public Service Commission, the PSC, as the protector of merit in appointments.

Equitable access is central to any fair and transparent recruitment system based on merit. The PSC is committed to maintaining the best possible public service for Canadians, one that is competent, non-partisan, representative and able to provide service in both official languages. Therefore I can assure the House that the PSC is committed to expanding the use of a national area of selection as a means of enhancing Canadians' access to federal public service jobs.

I might add that since the PSC is responsible for recruitment, questions about specific cases are best addressed by its officials.

I am pleased to note, and the member referred to this, that a meeting did take place between himself and the president of the PSC, which no doubt has answered some of his questions. For example, I understand from the PSC that the area of selection used for the list of postings cited by the member was properly handled, with the exception of four postings for jobs in Afghanistan which were discussed in the House and revised on February 9.

There was a larger question of why the PSC continues to use geographic criteria at all. A quick look at the statistics tells the story. In 2002-03 the PSC processed over 3,020 competitions open to the public. There were 523,000 applications received. An average of 173 applications were received per competition. In January 2004 over 1.3 million visits were made to the jobs.gc.ca website. This means that it is currently impossible to offer every job nationally, given the PSC's limited systems.

Nevertheless, the PSC is working to open up more jobs nationally, which it reported to Parliament in the June 2003 report “Enhancing Canadians' Access to Federal Public Service Jobs”. For example, since 2001 the PSC has opened up all senior level positions to national competition. In 2002 the PSC launched two pilot projects aimed at expanding the area of selection. In 2003 it launched the public service resourcing system to open up recruitment in the national capital and eastern Ontario region.

In short, the PSC is pursuing a responsible and measured approach to expanding the area of selection.

I thank the member for his interest in the PSC. I urge him and other members to support the Public Service Commission on improving the fairness and effectiveness of public service recruitment, for it is only by working together that we can ensure the continued excellent work of the public service and the quality of the PSC.

Public Service April 23rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, a good question deserves a good answer. That was not a good question.