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

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

We came to the House together in 1988 as colleagues. With only 33 days of House time left before a national election, I will reminisce on some of the great relationships you have had in the House on both sides and also on some of the accomplishments that we have been able to make happen as a result of our working together as a team. I know on behalf of your constituents that you have always been there for them and they will miss you.

It is a great privilege to be elected to this chamber. As we are heading toward an election, we begin to appreciate a little more what a trust we have been afforded by our constituents. Really, trust is the central issue here. Trust is what it is all about.

What has always made this chamber special for me is that we come here not only to talk about issues pertaining to our own ridings, but we are here on behalf of our ridings to speak about national issues.

In other words, if a member only wants to come here and talk about issues pertaining to his or her own riding, one might as well stay a city politician or a provincial politician. What makes us different here is that we have a responsibility to speak about national issues from our base wherever we are, whether we are a rural member or a city member. I consider that to be quite a satisfying experience.

I want to deal a little bit with the issue of trust today, because one of the challenges that we have had in our community in downtown Toronto has to do with the Government of Canada presence in our community. Most of the media action in this country is centred in Toronto. On a regular basis we are fighting to try to communicate the government message. We are competing against global issues.

Quite frankly, it is a heck of a challenge to communicate all the good things that the Government of Canada does in a community such as ours in the Greater Toronto Area. In fact, about two and a half years ago, the largest paper in our community, a paper called the Toronto Star , wrote an editorial. The heading of the editorial was that Toronto MPs were “missing in action”. The editorial went on to say how the Toronto MPs really do very little on behalf of their constituents.

I was troubled by that editorial; we were all troubled. I decided to come back and sit down with the researchers in the Library of Parliament and ask them what is the exact state of the number of treasury dollars that go into the Greater Toronto Area. The researchers came back to me a week later and, to my astonishment, they illustrated that for all taxes received from the Greater Toronto Area, all taxes, whether that be GST, corporate taxes, excise taxes, or personal income taxes, the treasury of Ottawa receives approximately $32.5 billion.

The Government of Canada has sent back to the greater Toronto area $22.5 billion, every year for the last 10 years. That $10 billion, the differential, is our contribution toward equalization, debt reduction, and so on. Quite frankly, I have never met a person in Toronto who resents the fact that we share the richness and the assets that we have with the rest of the country, or parts of the country that are not as advantaged as we are.

So the fact that we ship $10 billion more to Ottawa than we receive back is not an issue. However, the real issue and the real doubt, when I explain this to some of my constituents, is where does all the money go? It does not seem like the Government of Canada presence in the GTA is $22.5 billion. The Government of Canada activity does not seem like $22.5 billion.

I then proceeded to go department by department, government agency to government agency and ask, what are the dollars they are spending in the GTA? It took a couple of years, but I am happy to report to the House today that I am close to completing the breakdown of where that money goes.

In fact, I have all but nine departments or agencies of government reporting. We are still missing Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation does not want to tell me how much money is spent in Toronto, but we all know that the head office of the CBC is there. We all know that it employs about 3,500 people. So we can calculate that there is approximately $300 million of the $1 billion we give the CBC going into the GTA.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has not reported yet. We are still waiting for the departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Fisheries and Oceans. I still have not heard from Health Canada and we can imagine that that is quite a large number in the GTA.

Transport Canada is going to get back to me very soon because it has just made additional commitments in the GTA and it is not quite sure if all those commitments are going through. It wanted to ensure that the number was solid. In other words, there is some doubt over a large amount of money from Transport Canada, but its number will be here very soon.

The point is that I have a list of $15.5 billion that goes into the greater Toronto area. I am happy to share this with every member of the House. If anyone wants to go to my website and punch the button, they can access it.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply February 5th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by acknowledging your service in the House of Commons for the last 16 years.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, we know that one of the painful tasks that we have as members of Parliament is finding out all of the Government of Canada activity that goes on in our communities. It has been a real painful task finding out where the $22.5 billion has gone in the greater Toronto area. Anyone who would like to know line by line where this money has gone can call my office.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I find this really strange. On page 17 of the Speech from the Throne there is a special section entitled regional and rural development. It is close to a page and a half in length. The last paragraph, which is on page 18, states:

The Government is dedicated to Canada's farm economy and to taking the steps necessary to safeguard access to international markets and to ensure that farmers are not left to bear alone the consequences of circumstances beyond their control. It is also committed to fostering a technologically advanced agricultural sector with the supporting infrastructure of transportation and applied science to make the competitiveness of Canadian farmers and the safety of our food second to none in world markets.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I knew this question was coming from the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

My views on this issue are well known. My stand has been stated. I have said that I support the traditional definition of marriage. That is a simple fact. The whole issue around intimacy and rights is being debated now. It is in front of the courts. We will continue to work on this issue and debate it. At this particular point in time my position has not changed.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

I hear the NDP saying $4 billion. This is the NDP philosophy on business, but it focuses on big business. It does not realize that in that envelope there were one million small businessmen and women. I wonder what the NDP has against small businessmen and women. Small business needs that kind of stimulus.

When we bring small business into the communication, the NDP gets a little fragile.

The reality is that 80% of the tax revenue that comes to the Government of Canada in the business envelope comes from small and medium sized businessmen and women. That is where the bulk of that tax credit goes.

I cannot believe for a second that the members of the NDP would not clarify that they support small businessmen and women in the country. If they do, then they would have to change the statements that are being made about the exact dollars that are going in, and that is the problem.

People take statements and they parse them. They look at a few big businesses and forget the million small businessmen and women. The NDP has made an art form of taking pieces of a specific announcement and sticking it on a group within our community. In this case, it says big business is benefiting.

Now that we have clarified that small businessmen and women are getting a huge benefit here, I want to go to big business.

I do not believe for a second that anyone in this place would try to curry favour with large businesses. However, at the same time, we must have a competitive economic environment in the country for those businesses that employ thousands of people and that are competing globally. There is absolutely no acknowledgement of this from the NDP. It says to take a tax break and just stick it on big business because that is where the media will get sucked in.

I have made the point about the NDP and its attitude toward small business, but I want to go back to the Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne has identified commitments to our cities which most people in the media, including the NDP, have been surprised by. It has made a commitment to the environment that most people are shocked by. I personally believe that once the words in this Speech from the Throne go into deeds that we will be back here for a fourth time.

Business of the House February 3rd, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the work of my colleague from York North. Over the years in the House of Commons, she has had a focus on the environment, a passion and a sensitivity which all of us on all sides of the House celebrate.

Today she has pulled something out of the Speech from the Throne that I had not seen reported in any newspaper. It is the fact that our Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne has made a commitment to northern science. Canada's commitment to the Arctic is going to be in the front window. I hope this will be the beginning of a journey that will make our Prime Minister a green Prime Minister.

I want to move from the Arctic to downtown Toronto. As everyone can imagine, over the last few months I have had some concerns about whether or not there was going to be sufficient commitment from the new Prime Minister, the leader of our party, around issues that concern the inner city, especially my inner city in downtown Toronto. I was delighted yesterday when we heard such a forceful commitment, a commitment of real gravity not just to the city of Toronto but to all municipalities throughout the country.

It is very rare in our city, which has become a little partisan lately, when one can pick up the Toronto Star which, as I have said in the House of Commons over the last year has essentially become an NDP paper, and read that the mayor of Toronto, David Miller, has said that this is a fantastic commitment, a great commitment. What I like about Mayor Miller is that he has taken the higher ground.

We all know that it is really easy to be partisan; it is a natural temptation. But every now and again there are special moments in the House when members from all parties on both sides come up with very solid work. In this particular case I think we would acknowledge that this commitment for cities is unprecedented.

One of the things that makes this so dramatic is that over the last 10 years, and it is not widely known, we as the Government of Canada spent approximately $22.5 billion in the greater Toronto area. A lot of people do not believe that. I have been working on this for the last two years and I am happy to report today that I finally have from the researchers a list that describes close to $16 billion of that $22.5 billion in the greater Toronto area. For anyone who may be listening to this, including opposition members, and would like to see the federal presence in the Toronto area, I would be happy to make this document available to them. It is quite an incredible story.

One of the problems we have had as a government is that we really have not been pushing our communication strategy strongly enough in telling the people in our city, and I am now speaking as a Toronto member, about the good work that all the various departments of government are executing in the greater Toronto area. The whole issue of communication is a real challenge. When we cannot get the message out clearly and succinctly, there are people out there who will take advantage of it. I want to deal with a very specific issue.

I have been campaigning in the House of Commons since 1988 around the whole important issue that every one of us in the House be sensitive and caring toward the small business men and women in the country. They essentially employ 80% of our nation. I do not think anyone would question that fact.

A few weeks ago there was a question by Jack Layton in terms of giving tax breaks to business. Let us imagine.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret to anyone around here that I am a passionate national government person and I am a passionate interventionist. The only thing on which I agree with the member from the Bloc Québécois is the fact that I think a lot of our cuts, as I signalled earlier in my remarks, have gone too far.

We do not know all the facts about mad cow disease, but we do know that in our inspection system, our research systems, in just western Canada alone we went from four research centres to one. Do we know why we cut them? Because we were saving $10 million each. I am not suggesting that we would not have had this incident of mad cow disease, but I will say that when we have quality, world class agricultural research centres that serve a multi-billion dollar industry and we cut them down to one from four, I ask myself if that is good public policy.

My answer to the member would be this. Let us make sure that those instruments like research to maintain food security are maintained and enhanced, but let us do it through the Government of Canada. Let us continue to enhance the federal presence across the country. The more Government of Canada presence we have in every province, especially in Quebec and in the west as well, the more that people will view the House of Commons as relevant.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of points I would like to deal with. The first one is SARS. The member is absolutely right. He describes Toronto accurately. It is contained and organized, but we have an international media challenge. The rest of the world, CNN, Deutsche Welle, RAI, are painting us in a way such that if anyone here has friends anywhere in the world, they are calling and e-mailing, asking, “Are you okay? Are you going to make it?” That is part of the reason why a group of us in Toronto said that we have to figure out a way to correct the international image that exists.

International recording artists such as Elton John and Billy Joel cancelled coming to Toronto three and a half weeks ago. That went all over the world to all artists. Another part of the entertainment industry is shut down now. That is part of the reason why a group of us were mandated to go to Concert Productions International to see if we could get some international artists in here with Canadian artists to send out the signal around the entertainment world that we are alive and well. That is where the whole miscommunication came in from the media that we were trying to give the Rolling Stones $10 million. Nothing was further from the truth. The Rolling Stones were the first international band that said it would help, but to stage an event with Canadian artists of international stature that would bring 700,000 to 800,000 people into our city would involve an investment. Fortunately the private sector came up with half the money. We will still wait to see what the governments do.

The reality is that we have to change the international image, not just Canada-U.S. but around the world, because that affects investment and not just in tourism. That affects business travel. It affects foreign investment. We have a big problem there and $100 million worth of paid advertising will not do it. We all know that.

The second point is related to Canada-U.S. relations and the border. The just in time delivery sector is going through absolute hell right now because of the problems at our border. It is getting better, but what concerns me is that if we create any difficulty or if we do not show enough interest in keeping the Navistars and the Daimler-Benzes and these other industries that are dependent on just in time delivery, either way, the Americans will just say, “To hell with it. Let's just give up the investment in Canada. Let's do it in the States, because our economy is on its knees right now. We can use the jobs in the States and we can avoid all those border problems”.

I think we are in a really tough moment. If there was ever a moment where we need to do some stimulus, I think it is right now. It is incumbent upon all of us to throw our best ideas on the table, but I think the most important thing we have to do is somehow inject a sense of urgency around here.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 May 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying to the member for Peace River that I had an opportunity about three weeks ago of being on VIA 1 and we went through part of his community. I want to say that he represents a beautiful part of the country.

I agree with the member in a lot of what he had to say. We have all been in our ridings in the last couple of weeks. I come from downtown Toronto. I do not have to tell anyone in the House how we are being devastated in the tourism sector which is the largest employment sector of our economy.

There are over 10,000 chambermaids in the greater Toronto area who in the last three weeks have been laid off. Because the machinery of our government in the employment insurance section is broken they have to wait six weeks before they get a cheque. That is how long it takes. Many of those people have to pay their apartment bills and they need that cheque every two weeks. Otherwise they are a step away from welfare. This applies to the rest of the people in the hospitality sector as well.

We sit here debating big issues and billions of dollars, but in the hospitality industry 50% of the wage is on a cheque from the owner of the hotel or the restaurant, but the other 50% comes to that person in gratuities. When people go to collect their employment insurance the calculation is only made on half of what they are making, yet they pay tax on the total amount, the gratuity and the guaranteed wage.

What are we doing here? Is there any emergency system to help those people who are in pain? When the tourism sector of the country is hit like this and we are in the middle of debating the budget, there must be some kind of mechanism here, if this place is really supposed to represent the people, to use this budget debate to react to that sector.

I have been harping and I know other members have been harping, but I find it so strange that there is no reaction from the machinery of government. That is why I contend that the machinery of government is broken. When we cannot react to the people who are at the lowest end of the income spectrum, when we have never had such a high surplus in our EI fund, when the disconnect is there, then I say the place is broken. That is the hotel and food service industry.

It is not just in my community. I was in Jasper on that trip west. As I was checking out of the hotel a woman said to me that she had just lost four bus loads of Japanese tourists because everyone thinks that Jasper or Vancouver are suburbs of Toronto. Therefore tourism in the country has been affected coast to coast because of SARS and because of the international perception that we are all walking around in downtown Toronto with masks and oxygen on our backs. That is because of the international press. Conventions and trade shows have been cancelled.

I am appealing to the House that we generate some focus and political will to get some action. What good is a piece of paper or a budget if we cannot turn it into real action? What good is it?

I want to go back to the member for Peace River on the issue of being competitive. In southern Ontario the next greatest sector after tourism is the automotive sector. What is going on is that in three weeks we have the largest automotive plant in Windsor, Ontario, Daimler-Benz, and less than 100 miles down the 401 we have Navistar in Chatham, and we are going to lose these plants.

Are we crazy in this House of Commons to be losing these plants? Once they go to Georgia or Mexico, how are we going to get them back? Are we going to have some kind of emergency debate and all of a sudden find, not the $10 million a year for 10 years to keep them, but we are going to spend $100 million just to move them back? Is that going to happen? I doubt it.

Those are skilled jobs in a sector of our economy, the automotive manufacturing sector, which is now rated as world class. I thought a budget was to deal with these things.

If it means, as the member for Peace River said, that we have to examine our tax policy to keep those plants and jobs, then we have to do it. That is what the House of Commons is supposed to do. That is what I thought when I was elected a few years ago.

My concern is about the last six weeks. Tourism has been gutted and now the automotive sector is on its knees. My goodness, we lost the shipbuilding yards in Saint John. We should be building. If ever there was a way to link our shipbuilding sector to our ocean security, those plants should be going around the clock. We could use that skill in Saint John to deal with the whole issue of our security responsibility. That would also create massive goodwill with our friends to the south.

We are disconnected with what is really going on out there. Our capacity to move quickly, our sense of urgency to react when people are really in pain is not there. It is almost as if, if one could imagine, a plane would crash on the front lawn of the Parliament buildings and we just went about our business and said “Ho-hum, so what”.

Well, the plane has crashed in the tourism sector. The plane has crashed in parts of the automotive sector. We have to react toward those sectors the same way we would if a plane had crashed on the front lawn of the Parliament buildings. We would be out there in seconds. The emergency services, the fire engines and the ambulances would be there and the hospitals would be working. That is what has to happen now with these sectors of the economy. This sort of ho-hum let us take our time response is not the way to go.

It is an amazing thing. I am starting to think that this is becoming the norm around here: “If we cannot set up an emergency system to get EI cheques out to the chambermaids, the bartenders or the waitresses or chefs who lose their jobs, ho-hum”. That is wrong. We have to somehow make this budget moment come alive where we cause people to react with some creativity, some outside the box thinking and some risk taking. That is what we are supposed to do here.

I do not think that people will judge us in a negative way if we move quickly. There is no sense of urgency around here and that has to change fast. Otherwise--and I agree with the member for Peace River, and it is amazing I am agreeing with the member on nearly everything he has said here today--when we wake up one morning in about 90 or 120 days, we are going to get a real kick in the head. Right now our economy is the envy of the G-8, but we are going to find that a lot of people are out of work in tourism, the automotive and manufacturing sectors. When those people are out of work, they do not have buying power. That affects retail sales eventually. The next thing we know, we will have a bad scene.

In supporting this budget and its implementation, I immediately attach to my vote an appeal to the officials who have parliamentary approval to access those funds that we are voting on. I want to make an appeal to all the departmental officials who are listening, although I do not know if officials listen to the House much these days as it seems we have become so irrelevant. However, if there are any senior officials listening, I appeal to them to move quickly, especially toward those people in our communities, whether they be in Peace River, Toronto, Saint John or elsewhere, to access those moneys and resources, the stimulus to get this economy going again.

Just because three or four sectors of our economy are really doing well, we cannot ride on those three or four sectors. We have to remember that there are sectors of our economy right now where we are only seeing the tip if the iceberg in terms of trouble. I want to flag the tourism and the automotive sectors.

One cannot imagine the way the margins in automotive manufacturing are being squeezed. The manufacturers squeeze the parts makers and on and on it goes down the line. Eventually we will have a situation where we look at one another and ask how did it happen. If there was ever a moment to provide real stimulus and incentive, especially in the tourism and automotive sectors, this is the moment.

When I say tourism, I do not just mean my city. I mean right across the country. I mean the convention trade show business and the motion picture industry. In my community four months ago 80% of the motion picture studios were doing business. Now people in the motion picture industry are telling me that if there is no business within the next 90 days, they may as well give the keys to their businesses to their bankers. There are restaurants in downtown Toronto that have $1 million invested in those businesses with probably $5,000 or $6,000 of equity and the owners are saying that if people do not go back into the restaurants, hotels and motels, some of them are 90 to 120 days away from giving the keys to their bankers. They will not be able to make it.

I want to appeal not just to the member for Peace River but to the Canadian Alliance and the opposition who have always been obsessed, and some would say it was good obsession, although I would not always agree, with the fiscal cuts. If there was ever a moment that there should be some money around here, that there should be stimulus to help those sectors of the economy get back on their feet, that moment is now.