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 February 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I have to begin by saying how shameful it is that the Canadian Alliance would pander to members of the Bloc Quebecois who come to this nation's boardroom with the sole intention of splitting the country apart. If we really want to be constructive in this House, we have to go back to a very difficult moment in 1993-94 when a collective decision was made in the House to fortify the Government of Canada's presence in Quebec and to educate Quebeckers so they knew their place was in Canada, not outside of Canada. It was regretful that a lot of mistakes were made in that campaign.

No member of Parliament on the government side of the House would ever condone the Groupaction screw up. Those were mistakes, and we condemn not only those mistakes but any mistakes involving a waste of money. It drives me crazy when I listen to the separatists in here who try to pretend they are here for Canada. We know in fact that they are here for other reasons.

I cannot imagine a single member in this House who does not praise the work of the Auditor General and her team. However we are missing the boat when we do not explain to Canadians in concrete terms why all members of Parliament appreciate the Auditor General. I would like to speak from my vantage point as a member of Parliament from the greater Toronto area.

Right now there is a situation in the House of Commons where the trust of Canadians toward MPs is very fragile, and on that point I agree with my colleague in the Canadian Alliance. We have to ask ourselves why it is fragile. Canadians say that it is because they do not have an understanding of what the chamber does for them on a day to day basis.

One year ago the Toronto Star , one of the newspapers in my community, did a feature story in the editorial section entitled “Greater Toronto Area Members of Parliament Missing in Action”. We were stunned by that slam. We took it upon ourselves to research what exactly was going on in the greater Toronto area with regard to the Government of Canada. We discovered in very short order that the people of the greater Toronto area sent taxes to the Government of Canada of approximately $32 billion. They received back in statutory cheques and program cheques, that is programs from various departments of government, close to $24 billion. One might say that is a lot of money.

The next question by critics is where does all that money go? We certainly know a large percentage of it goes to the Canada pension plan, health transfers and unemployment insurance. The reality is about $8 billion or $9 billion a year go into the greater Toronto area program spending, that is dollars for various programs and services from the Government of Canada.

Today in this government we have an antiquated technology, antiquated to the point that government departments cannot tell us exactly where every dollar is going. They can tell us where large projects go, like the ballet or the waterfront, but those large projects represent maybe only $1 billion. Where is the other $9 billion? These are moneys that go into the greater Toronto area through the Department of Industry, the Department of the Environment, Human Resources Development Canada, Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence. These are large sums of money. Our system of government, as of this date, is not designed in such a way that elected MPs can look to see whether or not those moneys are going to the right place.

I want to give a specific example. I went through the estimates about six months ago and I discovered that last year in grants to banks in the greater Toronto area, we disbursed about $20 million. What member of Parliament in the House would stand up and say, “I vote to give $20 million to banks under the heading of labour adjustment”, when collectively banks made about $4 billion? There is absolutely no political rhyme or reason we would do that when we are short on money for housing and short on money for kids living in poverty, et cetera.

The idea of elected members of Parliament not knowing where every dollar goes is, I find, an abuse of my privilege as a parliamentarian.

I know that my colleague from St. John's, Newfoundland knows where every dollar goes in his riding. In fact, I have talked to many of my colleagues and they know. In smaller communities they know where every nickel goes and that is how they justify whether or not they are doing their work as members of Parliament.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you know where most of the money goes in your riding. Could you imagine millions of dollars being spent in your riding without you knowing about it? I doubt it. However, in large urban centres there are billions, not millions, of dollars being spent and we do not know exactly how it is being spent. We know of a lump sum here and a lump sum there, but we do not know exactly where it is going.

I contend that this Chamber's privileges are being abused when we do not know where the money is going in our communities, the communities we are responsible for. How can we be accountable if we do not know where the money is going? I believe it is wrong that unelected, unaccountable officials know where the money is going but do not inform elected, publicly accountable MPs.

That is why I support the motion today. If I had my way around here, I would have an auditor general monitoring every department of government for the next 18 months to two years until we had a system in place where every single dollar was tracked and we could trace it. Then, every single MP, and I do not care whether it is a government member or an opposition member, it does not matter what party to me, would know where the money goes. We should know.

Could hon. members imagine running a company, a small business, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were going out the door and we did not know where? It just defies basic logic that we would not know where it was going, yet here billions of dollars are being spent and elected MPs do not know where it is going.

I am not suggesting that all of this money is being spent on bad things. I am sure that 99.9% of it is spent on good things, but the challenge that we in the House have is to deal with priorities, with expenditure priorities. I believe there could be hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on things that unelected, unaccountable officials would like it to go to, but it might not meet the test of the political priorities. I say political priorities because we were sent here, we were elected, based on a certain set of political priorities being executed. If we look around and see that we are short and that we do not have enough money to deal with those priorities on which we campaigned during the last election, then we have to re-profile some of the money that is being spent. And how do we re-profile it and re-address it when we do not know where it goes?

Therefore, I am passionately committed to the Auditor General having the resources that she and her office need so that we can make sure there is value for every tax dollar going into our communities, right across the country. I want to know that the deal we did with Union Station in Toronto is a good deal for Canadians. I want to know that the deals that Canada Lands does with taxpayers' land, built over years, are meeting the public policy objectives of why we were sent here, as Canada Lands is now doing joint ventures with private developers. I do not want unelected, unaccountable officials doing these deals when we as elected MPs are shut out from what is going on. It is wrong. I want an Auditor General and a team within the Auditor General's office to make sure that elected members of Parliament have that information.

If there is anybody in this Chamber who does not want to know what is going on in his or her riding, I would love for them to stand up. If we took a vote here, I think every single MP, and I do not care from which party, would want to know where the money is going. If money is being spent on things in which they do not believe, they can call the officials or call the minister responsible and say, “Do not give any more money to chartered banks for labour adjustment programs when we have other needs. Do not give money to foreign multinational food companies when we have small businesses that are Canadian. Do not give away Canada's lands by selling them to five star hotels in downtown Toronto when we need those lands for affordable housing”.

That is why we are here and that is why the role of the Auditor General is critical. I support it. If we are to begin the process of rebuilding trust for all of us who come into this privileged place, if we are to have any shot at all at rebuilding trust, then I think it has to begin with our ability to say to our electors, “I know where the money is going in my riding and I stand by it”. But I cannot stand by it if I do not know where it is going, and the Auditor General is the only person who can make sure that this system of governance happens, department by department.

Supply February 24th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging the work by the member for St. Albert as the chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I have watched his work over the last few years and it is an extraordinary piece of government accountability that he organizes through his committee experience.

I personally believe that one of the greatest reasons why we have a democratic deficit in the House of Commons is the unelected, unaccountable officials who virtually spend 95% of the money that goes through this place. They need a realization that the political culture is keenly interested in how moneys are spent.

I believe that the Auditor General's budget of $66 million to cover over 40 departments of government and some 70 crown agencies, et cetera, is not enough to do the job.

Could the member for St. Albert put forward his views on the fact that if we are to really get this system back on track so the elected people in the House of Commons know where all those moneys go, the way to do that would be to ensure that the accountability through the Auditor General's office is dramatically intensified? Therefore we would need to give the Auditor General's office a lot more than less than a million dollars per department to audit.

The Budget February 19th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, over the last 14 years I have sat in the House and listened attentively to the New Democratic Party. I have taken care to listen to the New Democratic Party because quite frankly, I tend to be one of the farthest left in my party. It is no secret. I am a passionist, centralist, and interventionist.

Last night when I saw the New Democratic Party stand and applaud the Minister of Finance, I said to myself that the NDP caucus is true to form. It is high road. It is classy. It is constructive. However I do not know what happened after the NDP members left this Chamber last night because they began to trash the budget without any foundation at all.

I represent the poorest people in downtown Toronto. For the member of Parliament from the New Democratic Party to stand up and say that there is nothing in the budget for the homeless, for cities and that there is not enough for health care, for the environment, for children from low income families and the list goes on, shows that the New Democratic Party is now on a course of criticizing for the sake of criticizing and not one of being constructive.

The great Toronto area alone will get $800 million. How can she stand in the House and say nothing is happening for cities?

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I have never lost hope in all the time I have been here that we can make a difference. I know it is tough for the member for Fraser Valley. He is a man of high energy and passion and I have always respected him. However I really believe in the next few months there will be a lot of change around here.

On the issue of the Canadian Autoworkers and our automotive plants, our automotive plants are the most productive automotive plants in the world. I met last week with Buzz Hargrove, the President of the Canadian Autoworkers, and by the way the Canadian Autoworkers support Kyoto. There is technology out there. This bogeyman that the Canadian Alliance is trying to create around Kyoto will not work. Canadians are going to rally.

I do not share the Canadian Alliance's view that these automotive plants have to go to Mexico. I think the Canadian Alliance has to support the auto industry and push the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry to give some leverage and negotiation money so that those auto plants can stay here. I know the Canadian Alliance always believes that industry can do things by itself without government intervention. We know from the oil industry in Canada that if it did not have government intervention it would be very difficult for it. The automotive manufacturing business is no different. It is incumbent upon us to give the automotive industry as much support as we have always given the oil industry.

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

The Canadian Alliance members applaud, but they should be concerned.

For the last nine years the Prime Minister has followed a fiscal discipline that has been unrivalled in Canadian history. We have never had the country's fiscal trajectory going in such a fantastic direction. This is a great credit to the Prime Minister of Canada.

Many people think that the February budget is just the work of the Minister of Finance and the Department of Finance. We should tell Canadians that the reality is it is the work of every member of Parliament on the finance committee and members of Parliament who bring to caucus and bring to the floor of the House of Commons during question period what they believe their constituents want as part of the budget.

I believe one of the areas where we as a country have been weak over the last few years is in dealing with some of the economic pain of lower income Canadians. I want to talk about the few things that I personally hope will be part of the budget. I will go through them quickly because I realize that time is limited and there will be questions afterward.

The very first thing that I would like to see in the budget is $100 million a year for the next five years for sport and physical activity. This would have a fantastic effect on reducing our health care costs. It would have a great effect on sustaining our health care system.

We have heard it from the health department. We have heard it from Romanow. We have heard it from Kirby. We all know that if we pushed 10% more of the nation's population to spend a half an hour a day on health prevention, physical activity, we would save approximately $5 billion a year in the health care system. My number one request is that in order to save $5 billion a year, we put $100 million a year into amateur sport.

The second part of that request is not an expenditure but it is to alter the tax act. Currently under the tax act of Canada, we allow corporations in this country to have a 100% tax write-off when they put money into advertising related to professional sport activities. This is for corporate boxes in baseball and hockey, rink board advertising and radio advertising. This is a very large tax expenditure in the Government of Canada's plan.

I would like the tax act to be amended so that expenditure would only be allowed if 10% of it went toward amateur sport. In other words, for every dollar we put into professional sport, 10¢ of that dollar must go toward amateur sport. That would change the whole dynamic and interaction between corporate sport sponsorships. They would not just be shovelling their money to the professionals; 10¢ of every dollar would go toward the amateur sport fabric in this country.

I would also want the tax act to amend the special privilege that we give to the National Hockey League Players' Association. Currently all the moneys that flow into the strike fund of the union go in tax free. Currently they have about $140 million U.S. sitting there. It is a special gift from the people of Canada that all those moneys flow in there tax free. That write-off or special gift they have been given should be abolished unless 10% of whatever goes into that fund goes into amateur sport.

That is all linked to sustaining our health care system and it is not asking for extra treasury dollars.

Another thing I would like to see in the budget has to do with the whole issue of foreign ownership. I get apoplectic about the level of foreign ownership in this country. We are touching 40%. In the last eight years we have sold off $500 billion worth of Canadian assets. The CEOs of the Canadian companies that are foreign owned are now getting their directions from the head offices, wherever they are in the world, regarding where the creativity is done. R and D is being cut back. Manufacturing and new equipment purchases are being affected. There is contraction in the United States, and where do they go first to cut? They go to the branch offices and tell them to hold off on that new equipment.

This is going to be controversial, but I am appealing to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance for this. I would like to see $10 million to $15 million in the budget for a task force on how members of Parliament and trade lawyers could reverse the trend on foreign ownership in this country and do it within the confines of our trade agreements. That is where the complexity is. We do not want to blow up trade agreements but we have to deal with the incredible foreign ownership challenge in this country. My request is for $10 million to $15 million for a task force on how MPs and trade lawyers can reverse the trend on foreign ownership.

Tied into that, our Canada-U.S. parliamentary committee needs a budget. Imagine. We do $1 billion-plus a day with the United States of America and the Canada-U.S. member of Parliament committee has no budget. This is crazy. Members of Parliament from all parties are part of the Canada-U.S. committee. The legislators here work with legislators in the United States. They know what our problems are on softwood lumber. They know what our problems are in terms of ownership. They should have the resources to interact with them. Is that such a big deal? We have been asking for five years and nothing has happened. I hope that is in the next budget, the Prime Minister's last budget.

The next thing I would like to see in the budget has to do with the automotive and shipbuilding industries.

We have a huge problem in our automotive sector. It has been the greatest job creator in the country in the last 10 years. It has been our anchor and has held us together. We are now competing against Mexico and globally. The budget must put leverage and negotiation money forward so we can be there for modernization of our plants. I do not care where they are, whether they be in Ontario, Quebec or wherever. I am not favouring any part of the country. We need modernization money for our auto plants so we do not lose another Navistar, outside of St. Thomas, like we did a few months ago. The Mexicans outbid us because we did not have the industry money to maintain its presence in Canada.

I am appealing to the Minister of Industry through the Minister of Finance to ensure there is money in the budget so our most productive industry, our automotive industry, has the capacity to negotiate and keep these highly productive plants in Canada. These plants have spinoffs that are so multiple that I do not know the exact number.

The same thing applies to our shipbuilding industry. A couple of weeks ago I was in Saint John, New Brunswick talking to the men and women who had spent their lives working in the Saint John shipbuilding yard. It is criminal that this plant has been sitting idle since the frigates were built. The frigates are the envy of the world. The craftsmen from the Saint John shipbuilding yard should be building supply ships. We all know we need supply ships. The shipbuilding yard might be bigger than what is required for supply ships but that should be done. That means that Industry Canada needs more money.

The last thing has to do with health. It is linked to the whole area of creating more capacity within our health care system. McMaster University in Hamilton has a medical centre where people, who choose in the latter part of their lives to get involved in the medical profession, can study. Men and women in their forties and fifties can go back to school, start over, become doctors and become part of the health care profession. McMaster is the model on the whole planet. We need to set up similar institutions in other parts of the country.

I want to be totally Toronto-centric for a minute. I appeal for consideration for the Toronto General Hospital, which is in my riding, to get the resources to duplicate the McMaster model. I am sure there are many other members in the House in major communities who would like to have a similar models in their communities. It is really important that we prick the conscience of the finance minister, the Department of Finance and the Department of Health to duplicate the McMaster model in different parts of the country.

I am sure some people watching this on television are wondering what the bill would be for these things. What I talked about would cost less than $200 million in expenditures on a yearly basis. Over a five year period, we would be talking about $1 billion. However, $200 million for things that make our health care system better, make our quality of life for young people better and increase our relationship with our U.S. trading partner where we do a billion plus dollars a year in trade are not expenditures. They are investments to help sustain us on the great growth that the Prime Minister and the previous minister of finance have put us on over the last few years.

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Good. This budget will be a historic one. It will be the Prime Minister's last budget.

Prebudget Consultations December 10th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my prebudget debate by acknowledging the work of the Standing Committee on Finance under the chairmanship of the member for London West.

Members of Parliament from all sides of the House went across the country and listened to Canadians. Ultimately the report, “Canada: People, Places and Priorities” is the work of Canadians. It contains one recommendation which I believe would get the unanimous support of everyone in the House. Everyone in the House would vote for Recommendation No. 4 on page 182 of the report. It is called “Parliamentary Control over Estimates”. This is a PC Party recommendation. It states:

The PC Party endorses a system, as it existed prior to the late 1960s, whereby a certain number of departments selected by the Opposition would have their Estimates scrutinized by Parliament, without a time limit. This would force Ministers to defend their departmental estimates in the House of Commons, improving parliamentary scrutiny of government spending, and strengthening the role of the individual Member of Parliament.

Is there anybody here who would vote against that?

Supply December 5th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I think the Auditor General does fantastic work for Canadians. If I ever became prime minister I would have five auditors general. I have said this before. The problem with this place is that the elected culture is no longer running things; it is the unelected officials who are running things around here.

In my own city of Toronto where we spend $22.5 billion a year, I have been trying for a year to find out where that whole $22.5 billion goes and I still cannot get the answer. They only want to let me know where half of it goes. The problem is that the provinces have the same problem in dealing with unelected officials.

As elected members of Parliament we should not walk away from the challenge of finding out where our Canadian dollars are going. To continue to allow the same system of just writing cheques and letting people do what they want, whether they are federal bureaucrats or provincial bureaucrats, is wrong. It is time to get the elected people back in the business of knowing where the tax dollars are going.

Supply December 5th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I have immense respect for the member for Lethbridge. I sincerely appreciate both those questions.

On the first question allowing for ingenuity is a great thing. Ingenuity is something we have been short on in this place in the last number of years.

The problem that we have has to do with chapter 11 of NAFTA. The minute we open up the door to any kind of privatization in our health care system, it essentially creates a situation where the whole country is exposed to people coming in and privatizing our health care system. It is chapter 11. I have talked to some of the best trade lawyers in the world, Mr. Peter Appleton who wrote the book Navigating NAFTA and Michael Rachlis, who is one our best health care experts.

That is why we have to be so careful. We can allow creativity within the hospitals but we cannot allow it through the private sector.

On the second point which has to do with the sustainability of our health care system, the member is absolutely right. We have a huge problem right now. Kirby of course recognized that and it was tough stuff.

We have not done our part in the House of Commons on the whole area of prevention. I chaired the sport committee in the House of Commons. All members came together and unanimously said that we should put $250 million over five years into getting Canadians to exercise half an hour each day. Only 29% of Canadians exercise half an hour a day. If we could increase that to 39%, we could save $5 billion a year on our health care system. Those are huge numbers but it means a little investment.

I went to the Minister of Finance four years ago and begged him to put aside $250 million over five years so kids and parents could get involved and exercise. If we invested that we could save $5 billion a year. I got nowhere.

I am pretty sure in the not too distant future we will start working on prevention. That will save billions of dollars in our health care system.

Supply December 5th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the Bloc member for Hochelaga--Maisonneuve that I will not be supporting this motion today.

I will not be supporting this motion because my vision of how this country should be run is totally different from the Bloc Quebecois. My feeling on what the Government of Canada's responsibility should be in relation to the whole health care debate is totally different from the Bloc Quebecois. The Bloc Quebecois, for the last number of years, has worked assiduously in ripping the guts out of this place, promoting separation, devolving and dismantling Government of Canada instruments which help keep this nation together. It has been too effective at times in allowing that to happen.

When we talk about the Bloc motion on health care we must go back not just to the work of Romanow but to the work of Senator Kirby. We must understand that the work of Kirby and Romanow was not their private work, their private thoughts or their private meditations on how we should approach the renewal and reinvigoration of the health care system. These exercises were about listening to Canadians from coast to coast, from all walks of life, such as health experts, ordinary Canadians, and men and women who sell services to the health care system.

When we talk today about Kirby and Romanow we are not talking about what they said as individuals but about what Canadians have said. Canadians have said they want the Government of Canada to reaffirm that we must have a universal health care system. Canadians have said they do not want any kind of privatization in the health care system. The privatization campaign that has been running rampant around here for the last seven or eight years must stop. It is totally out of control.

The number one issue for Canadians and in particular, young Canadians, is that foreign ownership has gone too far. It is close to 40% right now. Young Canadians are saying stop, enough. If we were to allow a single province to do any privatizing of any part of this health care system under the North American free trade agreement, our entire system would be vulnerable, and it would be the end of our health care system which makes our country unique. Canadians have spoken through Kirby and Romanow and they have said no to privatization.

Canadians have said they want the Government of Canada to stop being so devolutionary in its thought process and actions. They want the Government of Canada to reaffirm its activism. We are not a cheque writing machine up here in Ottawa. We have a responsibility to the men and women who elect us to get involved. This is not about micromanaging how hospitals are run on a day to day basis. If we are transferring billions of dollars to various provinces for health care, it is normal that we have some kind of a collaborative understanding on how those dollars are spent.

Mr. Romanow's recommendation that the Government of Canada be more active in the relationship with the provinces on health care is a good suggestion. That is not what I think, and it is not what Kirby or Romanow thinks. It is what Canadians have said over the last two years. This is what Canadians want.

My colleague from Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge has spent many years of his parliamentary life in the whole area of drug patent concerns and drug costs in this country. He has led the way for us in this chamber. Bloc members have told the Government of Canada not to interfere with their province. They have said to stay back, send the province the cheque and not to interfere. My colleague reminded me about the clutch that brand name pharmaceutical drug companies have around the throat of the legislature in Quebec and how they want to have the patent laws extended even further.

They are the most profitable companies in the world. They make more money than banks and countries, and the Bloc asks us to stand back and let these pharmaceutical guys do what they want. I do not get it. However, it will not happen, because Canadians are telling the Government of Canada that it has devolved too much. We have allowed too much foreign ownership, as Liberals, in the last number of years. Some $500 billion dollars from Canadian companies has gone into the hands of foreign ownership in the last eight years. It is awful.

What happens with foreign ownership? The CEOs of this country essentially sit there and they get their e-mails from headquarters, wherever those headquarters are now in whatever part of the world, it does not matter. Those messages indicate to them how they will run their business, how much research they will do, how much money they will put into new plant and machinery, and how they will vote and how they will influence legislators on the health care system in Canada.

On this issue, the Bloc has it all wrong. Anyone in the House, I do not care what side of the House they are from, who continues to pussyfoot and be grey around whether we should or should not get involved after listening to Canadians, through Romanow and Kirby, is at great peril if Canadians are ignored. If that happens the country will just dissolve.

I would even go so far as to tell the Prime Minister the provinces want to walk on this whole issue of how to reinvigorate health care after listening to Canadians, because that is what Romanow and Kirby are all about. The provinces want to put it to our head, and sometimes they can do that. I would go so far as to tell the Prime Minister, “Let us go to the people. Let us have an election on it”. I will tell everyone what would happen. The Prime Minister would be returned for a fourth term, even with all our faults, because Canadians do not want us to devolve any more of our national government responsibility to the provinces.

They are scared silly that if we were to devolve any more, if we let the provinces do what they want in this area, that there would be a possibility of privatization which would be the beginning of the end of our universal health care system. The chamber must fight that possibility with everything we have in our hearts and in our minds. We must, in a goodwill way, ensure that never happens on our watch.