Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was business.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Toronto—Danforth (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply March 22nd, 2004

Madam Speaker, I respect the member's views on that particular bit of sponsorship. It may not have met the objective, but I have never yet met a businessman or anyone who has run a perfect organization. As for the notion that people sit around here and think that everything we touch is going to be perfection, I think it is bogus. I think it is hypocritical. I think it is hypocritical of the opposition to try to cast aspersions and make a point of saying $100 million went out the back door when it knows darn well that never happened.

Supply March 22nd, 2004

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kitchener Centre.

I note that the member for Etobicoke North is in the House and I cannot help but reflect on a comment that he made last week on national television about the performance of the government over the last 10 years in terms of its fiscal discipline. I call it sometimes a fiscal obsession. We have paid off some $46 billion in debt which is a savings of over $3 billion annually. By eliminating that deficit, there is a savings to Canadian taxpayers in interest payments of $115 million a day.

I am not particularly proud of that because I tend to be a little more left of centre. I would have preferred to have a little bit of that money invested in some of those other areas where we have people in pain. I want to bring this up because I want to illustrate the point that when a government's record is analyzed, we cannot just take one piece of a multi-trillion dollar budget over 10 years.

In regard to this so-called sponsorship scandal, I have listened in committee and I have heard over the last few weeks a series of misstatements that are so shameful to the House of Commons. I find it, quite frankly, hypocritical.

First of all, I want to make the statement to all Canadians that we had, in this hundred million dollars of contracts over five years, some stained contracts. There were some areas where there has been mismanagement.

The former minister of public works, Mr. Gagliano, acknowledged that last week in front of our committee and said he ordered an audit. When the audit said there were administrative mistakes and errors, he asked if he should bring in the police. He was told no, that these were administrative mistakes. He then ordered a 37 point program to begin the process of correcting this mismanagement on some of these files.

What drives me crazy is the hypocrisy of those members of Parliament and those members in the media that know $100 million did not go out the back door. The Auditor General acknowledged that the $100 million was made up of three components. There were $60 million in commissions to the advertising agencies. I checked with the advertising council of Canada and those are the industry's standard rates for advertising agencies. We cannot expect advertising agencies to get paid nothing. The standard rate is 17%. Now if there were agencies that on some jobs double-dipped, they should be punished, but they are still entitled to a basic fee.

We had $84 million in production costs on 2,000 special events across Canada. Only 60% of them were in Quebec. What drives me nuts is the way people are casting aspersions on the fact that all of this happened in Quebec. It did not because 40% of this work was done across the country.

I want to be very specific in my remarks because last week in committee a member of the New Democratic Party said that in the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, where it said on our list that $2.2 million went to the Pan Am games, the organizers only received $600,000, and the balance went missing. That is not the truth.

That happened to be one project out of the 2,000 with which I had some familiarity. There was a 10,000 square foot exhibit celebrating the ingenuity of Canadians and $1.2 million of that money went to the design, manufacture and presentation of that exhibit for the period of the Pan Am games.

The opposition said that it went missing. I am telling all members, even members on my own side of the House, that we must stop the hypocrisy here. There were a lot of production costs in those 2,000 events across Canada over five years. We should punish the stained and bring in the police for those who tried to rip off the system, but we should not stain the entire sponsorship program.

I was involved in some of those projects. We looked after a family farm tribute and we used sponsorship money. It helped trigger the government to get an extra $1 billion for farmers six months ahead of schedule. We used some of the money for the Pope's visit on World Youth Day in Toronto. There was nothing wrong with that. We bought pilgrims bags that the prisoners of this country made. We used some of that money for the Rolling Stones for production costs. The money never went missing.

It is really shameful that before we cast aspersions and condemn people, we do not take a look at the production costs of every single one of those 1,987 projects, because surely to goodness people would admit that in 1,987 projects over five years there had to be production costs.

We saw the signs. Hon. members may not agree that we should be supporting CFL, lacrosse, tulip festivals or francophone games. They may not agree with it, but if they went to every one of those events, they would see that there was signage. They would see that there were all kinds of services and the Government of Canada presence was there.

Before we condemn people, before we say $100 million went out the back door, which is a lie, we should ensure that we get all those production costs and separate the real solid value for money production costs, and the real solid industry standard commissions from those that are stained. My prediction is that when this is all over, yes, there will be stain, but this will go from $100 million out the back door to probably less than $10 million.

I am not condoning in any way, shape or form anybody ripping off the Government of Canada of $10 million over five years, but this notion that we perpetrate and promote $100 million out the back door on production costs of 1,987 events is a sham. We should stop it and get it back on the right track.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I find myself agreeing with the member, but at the same time, we should also know that we have a number of Government of Canada initiatives that promote corporate social responsibility or social ethics codes: passing the corporate accountability bill on June 12, 2003; establishing a code of ethics for Canadian business; creating the national contact point; providing the sustainability reporting tool kit developed by Industry Canada, Environment Canada and the Department of Foreign Affairs; and providing information and guidance on practices related to corporate sustainability reporting. The aim of the tool kit is to help Canadian businesses meet their reporting needs by providing a guide to what to consider when developing a sustainability report.

All of these are supposed to sensitize that board. I am sure we can do better.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Madam Speaker, the member referred to the Ontario teachers' pension fund, which has more money than the treasury of Canada. It is quite an amazing thing.

As we know, that fund does have a policy. For example, in the real estate sector, it has to spend about 10% of its annual return on real estate. I think that is part of the reason why that association owns most of the real estate in this country.

However, if I had my way, I would ensure that the Ontario teachers' pension fund shared a lot more of its pension fund activity across the country. We respect the Ontario teachers' pension fund as a great organization, but it is not above being challenged in terms of how it operates. All of the money flows into that pension fund tax free.

When we give a tax credit or a gift to a corporation, there should be a quid pro quo, and it should be one that has a national positive effect. I would just like to prick the conscience of the Ontario teachers' pension fund to ensure that this huge pot of money it has is serving the whole country and not just southern Ontario.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Madam Speaker, engaging the provinces on this issue should not be that difficult. Based on my experience with any of the provincial premiers I have either talked to or listened to, I do not think they would be really against this. I think the provincial houses would share most of what the member is saying as well. Again, it is a matter of balance. I think what the member for Winnipeg Centre should do is take the Hansard at the end of today, pass it on to all the provincial premiers, and ask them to use their influence to support all of us in the House in sensitizing the board so that it essentially shares the view of the House.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Madam Speaker, first, on the unethical investing or the screen that is unethical, I think it is a no-brainer. If the pension fund managers are reviewing things that are in that zone, they should decide immediately this does not reflect the value system of the House of Commons and they should repair that immediately.

On the other side, the positive ethical corporate experiences, I agree with that as well. The only thing that I think we have to be careful about in the House is that we ask people to manage funds in a way such that they are sustainable for those people who eventually have to receive those pensions, whether they be people who retire or people who are beneficiaries if someone passes away, or whether they have disabilities.

I do not think we can over-regulate them on that side, because there is a balance between making sure that they are sensitized to things that are ethically good, but at the same time they also must have a level of return that does not jeopardize the sustainability of the fund.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Madam Speaker, you are so correct. I will go back, but I did not want my friends from the west to think that we were defensive about Canadian ownership of one of our most important natural resources.

The motion today reads:

That... the Canada Pension Plan Investment Review Board should be guided by ethical investment policies which would ensure that our pension investments are socially responsible and do not support companies or enterprises that manufacture or trade in military arms and weapons, have records of poor labour practices, contribute to environmental degradation, or whose conduct, practices or activities are similarly contrary to Canadian values.

I like this motion a lot, but the reality is this. For starters, we should make sure we understand that the pension fund board, the operator of this fund, is at arm's length from us, but that we can have tremendous influence on the board. Any alteration of the plan the fund operators are on is not decided by us in the House alone. We need two-thirds of the provinces on side and in fact we need to have Canadians support this in a very serious way.

This motion reminds me of an idea that we have been talking about around here for a number of years, that is, we should be reviewing our entire system of measuring how we approach growth and development in our country. The United Nations had a system called the human development index. Rather than measure by accounting terms like “gross national product”, which are simply numbers, we should be developing a formula wherein we include in the basket of measurement children in poverty and the state of our agricultural sector. Too often in this chamber, we are guided by the officials of the finance department and we do not have enough influence on the way they think from the people in Human Resources Development or the people who run the Department of the Environment. This is where I think the motion is very strong and very good.

I think the mere fact that we are debating this today is a process of sensitizing those people who manage the board that handles the pension fund. I had absolutely no knowledge, until I heard it today from the member for Winnipeg Centre, of some of those investments the board is making, which are linked to making landmines or biological weapons, if I heard the member correctly, or some kind of poisonous gas or something. The member read out a list of armament materials that we were investing in. I do not think anyone in the House was aware of that.

If we accomplish one thing today, it should be that we will have sensitized the board to the fact that it really should review every single area in which we are investing. Maybe the investment that the board is putting into a particular fund happens to be part of another fund which in turn is linked to some kind of U.S. company that happens to be in the business of manufacturing these military weapons. I do not think that anyone on this board realizes for a second that Canadian taxpayers' pension fund money is going into a business that is making landmines.

As the member for Winnipeg Centre so appropriately remarked, it was our minister of foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, who led the way on a global landmines treaty. The notion that we would be complementing or participating in the making of landmines is something that I am sure the pension board, after hearing this debate today, would rectify in a microsecond.

I think that what we have to do in this motion is be tough where there are examples that really go against the spirit and the social policy of the House of Commons. If there are flagrant examples of where we are investing in corporations that go against everything the House of Commons stands for, then the board should obviously review and correct them.

At the same time, the part of this motion that I have a little difficulty with is the area regarding “enterprises that manufacture...military arms”. I want to be very specific about this, because there is a fine line here. The Department of National Defence and our peacekeepers have to go into peacekeeping zones with arms, tanks and equipment that allow our men and women who are in harm's way to be protected. We as a nation in the House of Commons decided many years ago to purchase F-18As. These are part of our ships at sea.

These are all areas where we cannot suddenly say that we do not believe in this because it is just not part of what the House of Commons or the nation is all about. We are very proud of our Department of National Defence. In fact, our new minister is pressing nerve here in a way that hopefully will reinvigorate that department even more, because there is no way that anyone, especially those in the NDP, would want our peacekeepers to be in a position where they are exposed. They need to have armaments for their own defence.

In the area of environmental degradation, I know for a fact that some of these funds are investing in environmental technology. We cannot move fast enough on that file. I think that is an area where we can almost be forceful with the Canada pension fund board, because we all know that the more we push green technologies, the more we are actually creating a more economically viable, sustainable society and planet. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that anything that has to do with investment in environmental technologies is a no-brainer in terms of generating an economic return.

Ten years ago, my very dear friends, Patty Carson and Julia Moulden, wrote a book, Green is Gold . They made the case for more investment in green businesses. A lot of these businesses are actually making very solid margins. They are making good profits. Those good profits in environmental businesses can actually help sustain and make our Canadian pension fund stronger and give us a better return.

That particular area of the member's motion I applaud and support. I think that in the end this debate today will be solid, useful and substantive because, as we have learned from another instance that we had thrown at us a few weeks ago, we can never ever presume that those agencies of government, even if they are at arm's length, are always sensitive to the direction from and the consensus of the House. The notion that we would ask these people to review every single investment that is part of the pension fund and at the same time keep it on a solid economic footing is a good piece of parliamentary debate.

Supply February 24th, 2004

Madam Speaker, before I begin to respond to the motion by the member for Winnipeg Centre, I will say it is a very good motion. There are some flaws in it and I will deal with those.

I will begin by dealing with the national energy program. I was part of a government that implemented that plan. What most people do not understand is that the idea that essentially was behind the national energy program, the security of supply retroactive back into Canadian lands that were essentially being taken over by foreign multinationals--

Supply February 24th, 2004

That idea came from the west.

Supply February 24th, 2004

It is the best thing that ever happened to the country.