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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was peterborough.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Peterborough (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2004, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, first of all there have been some remarks in passing disparaging Statistics Canada. My first question to my colleague is, does he not agree that Statistics Canada is arguably the best such organization in the whole world? I mean that in all seriousness and in the confidentiality legislation, the way that it prepares for each census.

Mr. Speaker, you and I have been here for some time. I can honestly say I have received certainly hundreds if not thousands of missives on this matter from my riding. I have presented petitions on this matter from my riding. Never once has anyone contacted me with respect to not releasing this information. I understand the theoretical argument about the confidentiality, but I never have.

My second question for the member is, what sort of proportion has the responses been that he has received? I have never received a missive in the eight years that we have been trying to get this legislation through. I have not received anything from anyone who did not want this information released.

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague and with some disappointment.

It seems to me that not just a modern state but even states past, because our censuses go back a long time, for better or for worse depend on statistics, and I suspect generally for better. Statistics Canada is not only renowned in this country, but renowned around the world for its role in the design of censuses, in the design of other collections of information and in the confidentiality which is associated with our censuses.

My colleague read out the different instructions from different censuses. He read out from the major censuses and the partial censuses as though they were both the same, which they are not. Every 10 years we have the major census and in between we have the minor censuses which are administered in a very different way.

The member made the point that they are different over time, and so they absolutely should be. Every time there is a full census or a partial census, there should be discussion of the design of the census, of the questions that are asked and of the nature of the confidentiality for a particular question or whatever it is.

Decades ago one might have been asked, “Were you ever a slave or were any of your family slaves?” I must confess if my family were slaves, I would be rather proud of the fact that I am standing here today as a non-slave. On the other hand, I think for the nation at that time to have that information was very important. People from slave families had particular needs or perhaps particular demographies. Maybe they were getting older or maybe there were young people coming up and because of the stigma associated at that time with their family having been slaves, this was a serious problem.

I would have thought the common denominator over a long period of time is that the design of the censuses should change and that this House should be involved in that. Statistics Canada should be as transparent as possible with that and the nature of confidentiality of key questions should always be discussed.

A really good example of the value of censuses is the fact that the Canada pension plan at the present time is the only pension plan in the world which is demographically sound. The plan is good for the next 40 years.

My question to my colleague is this. In the modern era what are we talking about? Not only have the questions changed over time, and so they should, but the way the information is processed has changed. It is collected differently and it is processed differently. Does he not believe this should be the common denominator and every census should be as up to date as possible in that sense?

Statistics Act June 13th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the way the member for Brant laid out this problem and the question of balancing confidentiality and the desirability of having statistics of various sorts.

I have to say, partly in answer to my colleague opposite, that over the last several years, as this legislation in different forms or this problem has been around, I have had a steady stream of requests from people who wanted us to change the way the census information from 1911 onwards, or whatever it is, will be released. What impressed me about that has been the fact that these were highly professional people, historians, demographers or something like this, who were very keen and had a professional interest in obtaining the information.

We also had all sorts lay people who were interested in geneology and other aspects of Canada in those days. These are people who now work in a much more sophisticated way through computers than they used to. One of the reasons they are able to do that is that Canada has become much more sophisticated.

The member for Brant complimented Statistics Canada, which truly is an example to the whole world. However ordinary people can now access information in sophisticated ways that were only possible to professionals.

Could my colleague tell me what I should say, in a short way, to all these people, which I think number in the thousands, who have asked me about this release of information? I cannot give his complete speech but I would like to give them hope that they will be able to get this information which they have sought for so long.

Canadian Diabetes Association June 13th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I attended a juvenile diabetes fundraiser this weekend. During the winter I met with the Peterborough chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association and toured its office. It does wonderful work in our community and country.

More than two million Canadians live with diabetes and that number will double by 2020. Escalating obesity, sedentary lifestyles and an aging population all feed the national epidemic of diabetes. Diabetes leads to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness. It costs over $13 billion each year. However early diagnosis, aggressive treatment and lifestyle change can stem the tide, delaying onset and even preventing the disease.

I support the Canadian Diabetes Association in all its efforts to develop a national diabetes strategy. We have supported the association in the past. Let us continue to do so. We should help those living with diabetes in every possible way. We should work to prevent and cure this disease.

Canada Elections Act June 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, not only here in Canada but around the world pay equity is recognized as an important element of a fair and stable workplace.

I know my colleague and the women's committee have a particular emphasis in pay equity, but pay equity in Canada extends beyond that to the variety of groups that I have mentioned. We need to know and understand what best changes should be made now so we can in the end have a system which protects and encourages all the groups that are concerned.

We want to create a fair and equitable workforce in Canada where no worker is left behind.

Canada Elections Act June 8th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join in this short debate with my colleague. I greatly appreciate her interest in this important matter and the fact that she has gone to this trouble to raise it.

The Government of Canada is firmly committed to fairness in the workplace. We want to close the wage gap, which she mentioned, between working women and working men. We want to create fair and equitable workplaces right across Canada. The government firmly believes in the fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work of equal value and so do I.

Pay equity is recognized as an important element of fair and stable workplaces. It means evaluating and compensating jobs based on workers' skills, effort, responsibility and working conditions, not on the people who hold the jobs. It is a solid solution to eliminating wage discrimination and closing the wage gap in Canada.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, pay equity is an issue that I am most interested in and quite passionate about.

The report of the pay equity task force, which my colleague mentioned, contains over 110 recommendations dealing with, as she said, very complex issues that have very broad implications.

For example, the task force recommended that the pay equity regime apply to members of visible minorities, aboriginal peoples and disabled workers. It also calls on the government to set up new oversight agencies. Clearly the task force report is a substantial piece of work with far-reaching recommendations.

If we are to move forward with the implementation of a proactive regime, it is fundamental that all potential implications are well understood and that the new system be set up in a most effective and efficient way.

The Minister of Labour and Housing is current considering a number of options to implement a pay equity regime that would strengthen Canada's commitment to equality. Discussions are underway with stakeholders and individual Canadians to determine the best way to implement a new regime in the federal jurisdiction.

Since pay equity legislation falls within the mandate of the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Labour will be working closely with him to develop a package of reforms for Parliament to consider, and I know my colleague mentioned the letter from the Minister of Justice.

The government is committed to making a real practical difference in the lives of Canadian workers. We envision a Canadian workforce where no worker is left behind; that is one where every person can participate, where jobs and opportunities are available to everyone who wants to work and where every worker can reach his or her full potential.

Canada's workers are the backbone of our national economic strength and the government is committed to ensuring that our workers remain the most diverse, the strongest and the best skilled in the world.

Fisheries Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I described the general case as well as I could.

With respect to the Blue Cove Packing Plant in Anse-Bleue, New Brunswick, which closed recently, the local HRCC staff has communicated with the company officials to offer the services and assistance of the department. The manager has indicated that this is not a permanent closure but only a temporary setback. It is the lobster production which will be affected and it could be back up and running as early as next week or as late as July.

The local HRCC staff have put forth all the necessary services to assist the affected employees.

Fisheries Act June 6th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I can only repeat the fact that the Government of Canada is always concerned when a large number of employees are laid off, whether a company closes or whether a company burns down. As always, our goal is to help Canadian workers to get back to work and to provide the employees with interim measures as quickly as possible.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada provides assistance to employees as well as employers when a mass layoff takes place. HRSDC officials go to the employers' premises or a mutually agreed upon site, as I said, to help employees apply for employment insurance and process claims as quickly as possible.

Employers are invited to provide application information for affected employees to Human Resources Centre Canada. This streamlines and accelerates the processing of claims. Employees are also provided with information on programs and services available to help them get back to work.

Procedures for large scale or mass layoffs are usually developed based on regional or local needs. When employment insurance claims are filed with record of employment information directly from the employer, the department can finalize them without delays. If records of employment are not available at the time of the on-site information claims-taking session, the employer may be requested to retain the applications and send them to the local office with records of employment.

The department also has an automated program designed to help local offices and employers handle a mass layoff. The program facilitates the management and processing of mass layoff claims electronically. Employers provide a list of social insurance numbers of affected employees and the program automatically completes most of the data required on the application for employment insurance benefits. The applications are then printed and sent to the employer which will give them to the affected employees or bring them when taking the group application for benefits.

We recognize the fact that when massive layoffs occur there are often economic impacts on the community and the families of affected employees. As always, our goal is to assist workers to get back to work as soon as possible.

Committees of the House June 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on the provisions of Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, employment insurance account and premium rate setting, and another act in consequence.

A majority of the committee supported the need to refer the bill to the Speaker for another ruling with respect to the need for a royal recommendation.

We know the Speaker has ruled on one aspect of the bill which is designed to set up an independent EI commission. We believe that a massive transfer, $45 billion of public funds of this type, inevitably involves a royal recommendation.

Even changing the nature of the commission has important implications. Moving the commission outside of government, changing the roles of commissioners involves expense. We are concerned about the staffing of the independent commission. Will the independent commission draw on the tens of thousands of employees at HRSD and what are the financial implications of that? We urge, Mr. Speaker, that you look at the transcripts, as I know you will, and look again at the need for a royal recommendation for this piece of legislation.

Foreign Credential Recognition Program June 6th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No.195. I would like to make it clear that the motion we are dealing with and presumably the vote we will be facing is a vote about the secretariat. It is not about the amendments or these other things that are around.

I have the highest regard for the member who introduced the motion, the member for Brampton—Springdale. She cares about effective integration of internationally trained new Canadians into our labour market. I want to give this issue more visibility by calling for the creation of a foreign credential recognition secretariat, as she does.

Before continuing, we should ask ourselves what foreign credential recognition is all about and why it has become so important. Early in the 20th century, people wanting to settle on the plains of western Canada would only have to show their hands to the immigration officer in Warsaw or Glasgow. If those hands were rough and gnarled, those people were deemed fit to settle in one of North America's last frontiers. Indeed, they were very welcome.

Today, in the 21st century, knowledge, not rough hands, has become the currency of the new economy. Where once evidence of hard physical labour earned a person a pass to a steady job or a farm operation, nowadays knowledge is a little bit more difficult to measure.

A certificate or degree earned in a school in India, Hungary or Argentina may not be readily understood as equivalent to a Canadian certificate or degree. That is why fully educated and qualified immigrants to Canada are taking longer and longer to fully enter the labour market and to earn an appropriate salary commensurate with their knowledge and skills. That is why internationally trained Canadians may find it hard to find employment here in Canada.

In a global economy, Canada can ill afford to shut out valuable human resources. Research tells us that within 10 years, virtually all our net labour force growth will come from immigration. Increasingly, Canada has to compete globally in order to attract qualified and educated immigrants.

Right now, our standard of living does attract immigrants, but if they are not allowed to fully contribute, talented workers will be discouraged from coming, and how will this help our standard of living?

Canada has no time to lose. How then can we expedite the recognition of foreign credentials? I would suggest we need to marshall our best resources in meeting this challenge. That is why on April 25, the Government of Canada rose to the challenge and announced the launch of the internationally trained workers initiative. It delivers on a Speech from the Throne commitment to improve the integration of immigrants and internationally trained Canadians into the workforce.

There are two aspects that I would like the House to consider. First, the internationally trained workers initiative will include from human resources and skills development $68 million in the foreign credential recognition program as well as other aspects, such as enhanced language training and better labour market information for prospective immigrants through a “Going to Canada” immigration portal, which has already been mentioned this morning.

Second, the internationally trained workers initiative is a government-wide initiative, including citizenship and immigration, health, and a total of 15 federal departments and agencies. In fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has taken a central role in this initiative.

It is not surprising that one of the principal departments in the federal government dealing with foreign credential recognition and skills recognition is HRSD, which is mandated to deal with labour market challenges as they arise.

Today the challenge is one that looms just around the corner. Employers may soon face shortages in some skilled occupations and trades in some areas of Canada as a result of baby boomers retiring. Compound this with the ever rising skills requirements. How can we then build a quality workforce to take on the whole world?

Clearly, it means attracting skilled workers to Canada, which we already do very well. Our problem is not attracting skilled immigrants, rather it is fully using their attributes once they arrive, as the member for Brampton—Springdale well knows. Research tells us that those countries that practise an inclusive labour market enjoy higher productivity and a higher standard of living.

What is foreign credential recognition? In short, it is the process whereby education and job experience gained elsewhere can be verified to determine if they are equal to Canadian standards. The foreign credential recognition program is all about working with the provinces and territories, regulators, sector councils, employers and others to establish credential assessment processes that are fair, accessible, consistent, transparent and rigorous to the internationally trained while still meeting the Canadian standards that the public expects.

Partnerships are essential with the provinces and the territories, and key authorities representing regulated and non-regulated occupations. We live and work in a complex labour market. No one department or agency can possibly do it all. For such a process to work it depends on buy-in from the private sector and other levels of government.

Progress is well underway through the foreign credential recognition program and on a variety of fronts under the internationally trained workers initiative. Through this initiative the Government of Canada is providing $75 million over the next five years to improve the integration of internationally educated doctors, nurses and other health care professionals into the Canadian system.

We know we have a web portal, but I am very pleased to see there is a development of a self-assessment instrument in the health care field which will be of great value to perspective immigrants.

Through the foreign credential recognition program other health care professions are also benefiting such as pharmacists, medical laboratory technologists, medical radiation technologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The Canadian Council of Professional Engineers will receive funding from HRSD to conduct research and develop a database of foreign institutions offering degrees in engineering. The foreign credential program is also taking steps to help the non-regulated occupations which make up almost 85% of the occupations in Canada.

The Canadian Aviation Maintenance Council, for example, is developing new procedures to help integrate experienced foreign workers facing Canadian industry credentials. The Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council is also conducting research for its sector on this subject.

Last but not least, HRSD is also spearheading the development of the workplace skills strategy in tandem with workers, employers, sector councils, labour, and the provinces and territories. In the last budget the government invested $125 million under the strategy over the next three years that will enable us to create the best and most skilled workforce in the world.

We will do this in partnership with the stakeholders to help strengthen our learning system including apprenticeship, boosting literacy and other essential skills, and facilitate the recognition of the credentials and work experience of internationally trained workers. In particular, with some immigrants, it is important to help raise their literacy and essential skills so they can fully join in creating a more prosperous Canada.

I am pleased that the sector councils are joining with us in advancing the yardsticks, which I prefer to call metre sticks, in this area. A recent Statistics Canada study tells us that even a small increase in the country's literacy score can translate into a relative rise in labour productivity and in GDP per capita.

In conclusion, I call on the House to vote for Motion No. 195 as it supports the work that has already been done in HRSD with the provinces and territories, key partners and stakeholders, and it will help focus more effectively that work. We have shown that skills are important and that collaboration across governments and with the private sector is key to continuing progress. I congratulate the member for bringing the motion forward.