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

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of the hon. member and share his view that he has some legitimate grievances with the way the political structure is operating right now. The people in my community who are without work and children who are without nourishment are no different in their feelings than those in his community. I am sure he shares that view.

But if we address in a constructive way some of the issues which he is talking about, and if we develop national standards in health care, education and training so that all Quebecers benefit as all other Canadians benefit, is it still his position that in spite of that correction he still wants to give up on Canada?

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I will be very quick indeed. As the member knows, I have deep affection for the member for Sherbrooke.

When he was going through the litany of policy initiatives he agreed to in terms of supporting the government, I wondered if it was some type of early olive branch and that he might like to consider coming over here and joining us.

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I begin by congratulating the member on his opening remarks in the Parliament of Canada and I would like to respond to his constructive ideas.

First, the objective of eliminating the 25 per cent personal guarantee under the Small Businesses Loans Act at that time was to try to put further stimulation into a reluctant bank sector which already had in my view a very generous government support provision under the Small Businesses Loans Act.

The member's point is one that we will discuss. Perhaps if we can get the banks to shift their attitude and start lending money to small business then maybe that provision will not have to be touched.

I want to deal with another aspect of the hon. member's speech which had to deal with getting private funds either through RRSPs or just private funds, not financial institutions, that might be used to help small business. Under the Small Businesses Loans Act if someone with a private fund wants to lend money to small businesses eligible under the act then there is a provision in the act for such funds to be considered by the governor in council. In other words this means they are decent people who meet the approval that they are solid operators. I applaud this idea because it would be a way of providing more competition to the reluctant banks.

On the specific notion of the RRSPs as a possibility being shifted into small business as a part of the program, we will make sure the Minister of Finance and his staff hear the member's remarks and we will look at it.

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, my apologies to you. Through you to the member, I am much more optimistic obviously and because we have new members we can address these issues quickly.

Concerning the people of Quebec, through you Mr. Speaker to the members of the Bloc Quebecois, we must never forget that they do have 50-odd members and two million votes, but there are seven million people in Quebec. I think the challenge for all of us in this House who want to keep Canada together is for us to address some of the legitimate problems that are brought to this House. I say that there are some real legitimate beefs. If we can address those things then ultimately it is our responsibility to go over the heads of the separatists right to the people and tell them to stay in Canada.

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I am a naturally optimistic and hopeful person but let me say why I believe we all can be more hopeful.

With the exception of 60-odd members this is a totally new Parliament. I happen to believe that one of the reasons I am back here, aside from the red book and the great performance of my leader and my colleagues, and that I have had such support is because I stood for a couple of causes people believed in.

I am from Ontario, as you are. We have the same problems you have in terms of duplicate-

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the member for his question.

The member used to be a former resident of Penetanguishene, Ontario. I remember his presence there. He always made a great contribution to that community. I talked to some of his supporters from Penetang-Midland Coach Lines this morning. They asked me to convey a hello to him.

I want to deal with the question of the Bloc Quebecois before I get to small business. One has to try to understand that this is the Parliament of Canada. There has been a traditional view I have always supported that when one comes to this Chamber the objective is to make a better Canada. There have been times when I have struggled, and I still struggle, with the idea of coming to this House of Commons of Canada saying basically that I want to separate from it.

Please bear with me as I try to understand how that fits logically. I have not been able to figure it out yet but I have tremendous personal affection for their leader when he was Minister of the Environment and I was a member in opposition. He came to my riding and supported my people's summit on the environment so none of my feeling is of a personal nature. It has to do with an ideological difference we have. I am already seeing signs that the Bloc is shifting its position.

When I hear members of the Bloc stand up and passionately care about the image and the play of Team Canada I say there is a spark of hope because eventually their interest in Canada will probably expand to other areas.

I have less than a minute. I want to deal with the subject of family trusts. One can check Hansard. I spoke against the government three times on that bill. I voted against the bill. I personally think it is obscene that the richest people and the wealthiest families in Canada, some of whom actually happen to be friends, have billions of dollars that have gone untaxed for 20 years when we have people living in poverty and people making less than $50,000 a year who are paying tax because of the complexity and other complications related to the tax system. There is no argument from me and we will be fighting for reform.

I call that comprehensive reform and we are with them on that.

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks by congratulating you on your new responsibility.

I would like to begin my address by also thanking my constituents of Broadview-Greenwood for giving me a second term in this Parliament of Canada. I grew to have a deep sense of respect and appreciation for this Chamber, especially in the last three years of my first term. I found it a bit intimidating the first

year and I did not enjoy it as much. As a result of that I shied away from the Chamber.

However, after my first year of being a member of Parliament I made up my mind that I would work at trying to make a contribution to debate in the House of Commons in exchanging views and ideas. At that time I was on the opposition benches but I discovered if I worked at that many members on the government side were as interested in trying to achieve the same results as I was. I say to all members of this House that I am going to continue the same approach of trying to present ideas in a constructive way and listen to their ideas so that together we can advance real debate. From real debate I believe we have a shot at making real reform happen.

The danger that one has to be aware of in this town is that most of this town is in the hands of the bureaucracy or the paper pushers. I believe we have become a nation of paper pushers. I think one of the reasons why it has become like that is because so many of us who are elected by the people have not used or have not exercised our political will to transmit to the public service the fact that the ideas that we bring to this Chamber are not our ideas but those of our constituents, the people who elected us and sent us here. We are going to have to work forcefully to make sure they are implemented because ideas just do not happen automatically.

I put my energy into two very specific areas during the last Parliament. I want to begin my remarks this time by going back to those two specific themes of small business and tax reform.

As I said repeatedly during the last Parliament I believe passionately that the greatest hope for putting Canadians back to work rests with the small business community. We have close to 900,000 small businessmen and businesswomen operating across this country and they have been suffering incredible difficulty over the last few years. They have been suffering because of very poor tax design. It was exacerbated by the poorly designed goods and services tax which caused an incredible paper burden at a time when they did not need it.

However there is another area in which small business has been suffering and it has to do with the area of capital. Unless we address the issue of capital for small and medium sized businesses then this country and this House of Commons are going to continue to flounder.

I was just thrilled during the election campaign, even before the election was called, when the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance called a press conference in Ottawa in the early part of July. They told the people of Canada that one of the central themes of the red book would be built around trying to move or shift the attitude of the financial institutions of this country toward small business.

There is not a member of Parliament in this House who could not stand up and tell horror stories of how small and medium sized businesses in his or her riding have been terrorized by the local branch manager. Are there any members who could stand up and say they have not had that experience? I see all members in this House are nodding their heads.

The problem is that somehow as a House of Commons collectively-not just the government side, this is not just an issue for government members, it is an issue for all members in this House-we have to communicate forcefully to the financial institutions, the 57 charter A and B banks, the trust companies, the pension funds, anybody who has large pools of capital. We have to tell them that if they are so hung up on deficit and debt-and we are concerned about it too-if they really care about this community and this country, then they have to start figuring out ways of getting capital into the hands of small and medium sized enterprises.

I stand up here today, not just as the member of Parliament for Broadview-Greenwood, but thanks to the Prime Minister I also have the responsibility of being the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Industry. I want to assure all members that just because I am on this side of the House I will not stop for a second in campaigning on behalf of small businesses, that banks must start coming to their assistance.

I want to be fair about this as well. We are beginning to hear signals from some financial institutions. I want to be very fair when I talk about financial institutions in this sense.

Two weeks ago the Toronto caucus listened to a senior vice-president of the Royal Bank of Canada, Mr. Charlie Coffey. He admitted to all of our members that the banks have really been falling behind in changing the attitude of commercial loans officers toward small business and that they were working aggressively and quickly to try to rectify this problem.

Mr. Coffey stated that until this problem was solved he would take calls from any member of Parliament. He gave us his fax and phone numbers and encouraged us to circulate them. There is one institution that has publicly declared it is committed to join us in this campaign. I can only hope that this country's other 56 financial institutions will be just as aggressive.

I want to go on to the next area that also affects small and medium sized businesses. It is an issue many members of the Reform Party have talked about during the campaign and in the House of Commons. It is the issue of tax reform.

Our Prime Minister has stated unequivocally that we as a government are committed to comprehensive tax reform. He stated clearly in the Speech from the Throne-I believe it is on page 4 at the second paragraph-that he is going to set up a finance committee that will first of all do away with the goods and services tax. That committee will also look at the idea of comprehensive tax reform.

I want to declare publicly my particular bias for a specific aspect of the Reform Party's platform. It has to do with the whole area of tax reform. As a Liberal I am committed to tax reform and I know many other Liberals share that commitment. This is the Tax Act of Canada. This is the document that really decides how the economy of Canada is run. This document is approximately 15,000 pages of rules, regulations, exceptions and exceptions to exceptions.

To all members of the House I want to say that even the best tax lawyers and best tax accountants in Canada will admit privately that this no longer works. We all know this. Canadians know it and they are showing their total lack of trust in this particular act first of all by going underground.

As members know the GST exacerbated the underground economy. Even before the GST we had the largest underground cash economy of any country in the world, after Italy. That is a statement from Canadians that they have lost trust in the system. It is not working and it is time to go back to the drawing board.

Fortunately we are a party that encourages open and constructive debate. Because of that I have been allowed with a lot of support to advance an idea called the single tax system. It is not too far off the idea that the Reform members campaigned on. To all members of the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois, this is in both official languages. The single tax is an exercise a group of us undertook in the last Parliament after the first year when the government asked for a constructive alternative to the GST. It is a simple, fair, efficient, workable alternative to the current tax act of Canada.

I want to say to all the Reform members and members of the Bloc as well that I am happy to share the research and the experiences I have had because I believe that Canadians really do want us to work together. Canadians want us to act now. Canadians, as do all members of this House, believe that this cannot be a Parliament of consultation. We have been consulting to death. We have been consulting and the consultants have been consulting the consultants. The last thing we need to do so early in this Parliament is to get back into the consulting business. Canadians are fed up with consultation. They want action now. They want us to move now.

When I say they want us to move now, it is not that people want us to move irresponsibly. One very specific thing we can do immediately is we can phone the leaders of the financial institutions and tell them we are all together on the issue of banks supporting small business. If every member in this House just made one or two calls to a leader of a bank and said that we were all together on that issue, that would be immediate action.

If we did that to all the financial institutions they would move quickly. Members in this House should not forget that they are the designers of the law that governs how the banks function. I can say if I were a bank president and thought that a united House was going to start looking at other ways of regulating my business because the banks did not come to the party on their own, I would probably move quickly.

However we cannot do that job alone. Everyone must participate in this and I plead with all members to get involved in the issue.

Another thing which must be dealt with is the whole hangup on the deficit. I am as concerned about abuse and paper burden and duplication as any other member of this Parliament, but we have to be very careful. If we become so fixated on the deficit and if we become so fixated on cutting costs and cutting programs just because we want to meet some magic number of cutting, I am afraid we are going to exacerbate the already serious crisis of confidence we have in this country.

I get very concerned when I see the emphasis on deficit versus the emphasis on putting Canadians back to work. As the member for Yukon, the leader of the New Democratic Party pointed out in her remarks, for every unemployed person we have in this country today it costs the treasury $17,000 directly, not counting indirect costs like health care, crime costs and so on, not to mention the fact that we lose a revenue source to the treasury.

I personally believe the best way to handle the deficit and ultimately the debt is by getting Canadians back to work. If we have to go through a short period where there might be a little bit more of the same deficit and debt, but if ultimately it means we can get Canadians working so that a year or 18 months from now we have more taxpayers and therefore more revenue coming in, that is the approach I support. I hope members understand that.

Of course that is the design and the objective of the infrastructure program which is totally supported by the Minister of Finance. It is a fine balancing act but we have to remember as I said the other day that our ultimate responsibility in this House is not for the people who are advantaged. We come to this House as people in government for the people in our communities who are disadvantaged: the unemployed father who does not have enough money to buy his kid a hockey stick; or the unemployed single mom who sometimes just does not have enough money to

give her child proper nutrition. That is our bottom line responsibility.

I hope we will not put human capital on the back burner in the name of the deficit, when it really should be on the front burner.

Again I want to thank my constituents, especially all of the volunteers. We all have very special volunteers who helped us come here. A young man, 32 years old, comes into my office. Nick Lamacchia is unemployed and has been for the last six months. He comes into my office every day from about ten o'clock in the morning and stays until about seven at night. He listens to other people's pain and frustration.

As long as we can keep in touch with the reality of what is going on in all of our communities we can overcome whatever we have to in order to make sure the people we are sent here to serve are ultimately being served.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your patience and time. I am going to do my best to advance my support for small business and tax reform. I will be happy to share any research I have from the last Parliament with anyone.

Speech From The Throne January 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his opening remarks. I would like to deal specifically with those remarks in his speech pertaining to research and development.

I would also like to make a general statement through you, Mr. Speaker, to members of the Bloc Quebecois. I have been sitting here listening to their speeches over the last few days. Quite frankly I am impressed and encouraged because I find many of the things they are representing and fighting for, with the exception of independence, are the same things that we and our constituents are fighting for. If we could somehow get them to rekindle their spirit toward Canada rather than give up on Canada, this could probably be a very interesting Parliament. However we will not try to get that all accomplished in the first week.

I want to make a point about research and development funding. Proportionally the amount of funding for R and D in Quebec and in Ontario is relatively the same. We inherited a situation where a lot of the cuts were made for us. We are not going to cry over a mistake that was made in the past. I want to give an assurance that we on this side of the House are looking forward to a renewed commitment toward research and development in all regions of the country with laboratories because funding is more organized around the labs than on an across the board basis.

If the member reads the red book closely he will see we have made a very serious commitment to enhanced research and development in the up and coming session.

Speech From The Throne January 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the member on her maiden address in the Parliament of Canada. She touched on the very important issue of the freedom of members of Parliament to express the views of their constituents and not be reprimanded.

I rise as a member of the government party to clarify a position of our party. It would be unfair to leave the impression with the viewing audience or Canadians in general that we on the government side do not have the ability to be creative, to debate our views, or even to have the ultimate option of dissenting or not supporting a particular government measure. I want to try to explain the fine line.

In our party we have always been encouraged to work at new ideas and develop policy initiatives. We debate them in our caucus committees and at our policy conventions. From those experiences we ultimately develop a consensus and a party position. Once a party position is taken we have to decide whether or not we want to continue as members of that party.

In our particular case we as members of the Liberal Party signed on to campaign under the red book. It would be inappropriate for us not to support the measures in the red book, seeing as that is in fact what got us elected. However that does not preclude us from participating in debate in committee or in the House.

Having been a member of the past Parliament I just want to say to the member that there was more than one occasion when we constructively debated publicly in the House. Some of us had

different opinions than the party thrust but ultimately when the time came and some of us differed we were not punished. The member mentioned that members could be punished or used as lightning rods. That is mythology. That really does not happen.

The Liberal Party is very vibrant and encourages creativity and debate but ultimately, seeing as we have campaigned on a certain position, it is incumbent upon us to stick with the position that our electorate supported us on.

Speech From The Throne January 21st, 1994

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I just need some clarification. We had the Minister of Industry here. I thought I heard you say questions and comments. We asked the minister to stay here thinking there might be a question. I wondered if in fact there would be a question.