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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was bay.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Liberal MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, in direct response to the hon. member for Simcoe North, I have not put percentages in is this because it is a fairly new concept, not only for parliamentarians but also for our public service.

Therefore, I want to ensure that we understand this fully in principle. By the federal government offering billions of dollars to municipalities in infrastructure and other funding, this is meant to generate Canadians tax dollars, multiplying not only within communities but within the nation and building us a strong public transportation infrastructure.

I believe it is a small request to ask of municipalities that if they come to us for federal support, that at the very least we can generate millions and billions more dollars throughout our nation by supporting a public transportation industry. Then we can really say “Canadian made” and feel proud of it.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the second question first. For municipalities, in terms of the pace of these projects, the acceleration of us being able to deliver, repair, maintain would end up being a very strong positive to municipalities. As a former mayor, councillor and the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, I have been intrinsically involved in infrastructure projects and the design of those programs.

It is very important that Canada not lose its technological advantage in public transportation, which makes us vulnerable to other countries. I think of contracts that are lost within communities. Some of the members here have lost suppliers.

How does it affect municipalities? If we lose a plant of 120 full time workers with skilled trades, we lose the tax benefits, the salaries, the wages, the benefits let alone those other things that happen in terms of the suppliers and the spin-offs.

When a municipality makes the decision to go elsewhere, we lose the public transportation capability, technology, young people studying in universities and colleges, in drafting or engineering and our ability to export to other countries. What may appear on the surface to a municipality to be an immediate slight price advantage, wait until it starts paying for overseas flights to get its inspections and repairs done.

Canadian Content in Public Transportation Projects February 14th, 2008

moved:

Motion No. 183

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should implement a policy, which is consistent with North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization policies and guidelines, to mandate Canadian content levels for public transportation projects, and to ensure that public funds are used to provide the best value to Canadians by supporting domestic supplier and labour markets.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to begin debate on my private member's Motion No. 183, regarding Canadian content levels for public transportation projects.

This discussion has been a long time coming. In fact, this is the first time since the founding of this country in 1867 that domestic content levels have been discussed by the House of Commons. Clearly the conversation is long overdue.

I want to make it clear from the start that the intent of this motion is not to debate the specifics of what Canadian content levels, policies, percentages or processes should be. The wording of the motion is intentionally broad to allow for a discussion of the principle of domestic content regulations.

I hope that all parties can agree that we must do more to ensure that Canadian tax dollars are supporting Canadian manufacturers, suppliers and workers. Let us start by looking at the situation as it stands today.

Canada does not currently have any domestic content level requirements for publicly funded transportation projects. As a result, millions of taxpayers' dollars are being used to support manufacturing and to create jobs and economic growth in other countries.

For example, with the coming of the 2010 Olympics, the province of British Columbia is making a significant investment in infrastructure. As part of that process an improved rail system between downtown Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport is under construction. It is called the Canada Line, and rightly so because the Government of Canada is providing $419 million for this $1.9 billion project. However, the railcar portion of approximately $68 million was tendered without any requirements for domestic content. It is now being built in South Korea.

In another example, York Region's Viva rapid transit system announced the expansion of its fleet in 2006 to help with increased ridership. The purchase of five new 60-foot articulated buses was awarded to Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool. The price tag was nearly $3.9 million. Once again, the project was partially funded by federal tax dollars without any Canadian content requirement. Because of a lack of domestic content requirements, these are just two examples that resulted in nearly $72 million being spent to support workers in other countries.

In a very real sense, Canadian taxpayers paid twice: the first time with the contribution of federal tax dollars toward these projects; the second time because of the lost employment opportunities in Canada and the very real possibility that some Canadian workers were laid off or even let go permanently because of a shortage of work right here at home.

The real tragedy is that Canada is one of the only major trading countries in the world that does not have domestic content requirements for public transportation projects. This means that Canadian manufacturers and workers are placed at a significant disadvantage in the amount of work that is available from other countries. It also deprives us of an opportunity to attract investments into Canada, and hence of developing a globally competitive industrial cluster based right here. Let us look at some of the rules in some of our major trading partner countries.

In the United States the buy America act requires that 60% of the value of a public transportation project must come from within the United States. This percentage applies to all supplies and raw materials that are used in the contract. In addition, the United States requires that 100% of final assembly be done within the United States of America.

How has this legislation impacted Canadian manufacturers? In order for Canadian transit manufacturing companies to even bid on a U.S. project, they must have an assembly plant in the United States and locate U.S. based suppliers of the materials they need.

In fact, a Canadian manufacturing cluster of sorts has developed in the Plattsburgh region of New York State. Bombardier Transportation; CEIT, an equipment manufacturer; Multina, a maker of seats and interiors; PCS Technologies, a maker of communications systems; Railtech Composites, a supplier of interior devices and components; and Wadbec, a maker of brakes, air conditioning and electronic equipment have each set up operations in Plattsburgh in order to qualify for U.S. contracts. Clearly the U.S. model is an excellent example of precisely how domestic content policies help to grow a national economy.

Our other NAFTA partner has also implemented domestic content rules. In Mexico a 10% price differential benefit is given to companies that use local content of 50% or more.

Around the world we see more of the same. Domestic content levels are also enforced in China where 70% local content is required.

The 27 member countries of the European Union have very stringent rules about EU content requirements. Member countries must reject bids from companies that are not located in any EU member country or in a country with which the EU has a reciprocity agreement. In addition, a minimum of 50% of the product's value must be manufactured within the European Union.

The most severe rules are in Japan, which closes its market to any foreign country so that only Kawasaki has access to these projects.

All markets to which Canadian producers need access demand that they invest there before they sell, but in Canada, we place no such obligation on foreign producers. Indeed, if the situation does not change soon, Canadian producers may be obliged by economies of scale to supply into Canada from other jurisdictions.

As we can see, Canadian companies are at a significant disadvantage because of the lack of Canadian content requirements.

Now that I have outlined the rules of our major trading partners and how they preclude Canadian production and employment, I will take a few minutes to explain what the economic benefits of implementing domestic content levels on Canadian public transit projects would be.

As noted by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in the recently released paper entitled, “Renewing Canada's Infrastructure: An Opportunity to Invest in our Future”:

The indirect, economic contribution of manufacturing and exporting companies to the Canadian economy is significant. It has been estimated that every dollar of value added by manufacturers results in $3.05 of economic activity in Canada -- the most significant multiplying factor of any Canadian economic sector.

In addition, we must consider that approximately 29% of the contract value of public transportation projects is spent directly on wages, salaries and taxable benefits, plus an additional 15% of the contract value is returned to federal and provincial governments as personal income tax revenues.

That translates into $440,000 on every $1 million of investment going back into our economy. This does not even calculate the spinoff effect of those payroll dollars to local merchants and service providers. These numbers make it very clear how we could use our tax dollars to generate employment and economic activity for Canadians. Why would we want to give this economic stimulus away?

Alternatively we can continue to send millions of these dollars to other countries, thereby allowing them to receive the benefit of employment, economic activity and tax revenue generation for their citizens.

It is not a matter of giving favours to manufacturers who are already here. Instead, it is an issue of whether or not we can emulate other countries and leverage on investments to attract global competitors to invest in the Canadian economy.

We want to use our policies to bring more bus and rail manufacturers to Canada. The right answer is abundantly clear. Canada must implement domestic content requirements.

This concept has earned substantial support across the country. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Canada's largest industry and trade association, is calling for just such a policy to support our manufacturing sector.

In 2006 the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, representing over 57,000 businesses through 160 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade, passed a resolution calling for domestic content levels.

My office has collected literally thousands of signatures in support of the motion. In addition, I receive letters of support from all across the country. William Cherry, president of Talfourd-Jones Inc. in Toronto writes:

The House endorsing this motion would send a clear signal to the government on the need to implement a Canadian content policy...as the only Bus Bumper manufacturer in Canada...you can imagine how we feel about buses being sold to Canadian transit fleets...carrying American made Bumpers paid for by Canadian tax dollars.

Jean-Pierre Baracat, vice-president of Business Development of Nova Bus in Saint-Eustache, Quebec, emailed us:

We, at Nova Bus, truly welcome your initiative and fully support this motion. To further substantiate your case, you should know that in order to be able to sell to U.S. municipalities, Nova Bus will be opening a new plant in New York state in 2009.

There are many other reasons for supporting domestic content levels as outlined by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in the previously mentioned report. Some of these are as follows:

These measures reinforce the supply chains of national companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses in two ways. When governments require that a certain percentage of a given finished product's components be made domestically, it facilitates the entry of locally-based small and medium-sized manufacturers into the supply chains of major suppliers in charge of the project...The measures favour the attraction and retention of private investment...and...These measures help reach a high level of transparency in governmental tendering processes, while ensuring competition that is based on fair rules for the various vendors.

One concern that has been raised about this motion is whether NAFTA and WTO treaties allow such a policy. I make it abundantly clear that both NAFTA and WTO treaties do allow domestic content policies for transportation projects that support the national economy.

NAFTA chapter 10 reads:

1. This Chapter does not apply to procurements in respect of:

(b) urban rail and urban transportation equipment, systems, components and materials incorporated therein as well as all project related materials of iron or steel;

The World Trade Organization's agreement on public procurement reads:

1. Notwithstanding anything in these Annexes, the Agreement does not apply to procurements in respect of:

(b) urban rail and urban transportation equipment, systems, components and materials incorporated therein as well as all project related materials of iron or steel;

Let us remember that. As I have outlined previously, all other G-7 countries, all 27 European Union member countries and China already benefit from domestic content policies. It is time for Canada to stop being a doormat among our trading partners. We must stand up for our own best interest and the betterment of our citizens.

I ask fellow members of the House to support Motion No. 183 and in so doing, support the people of Canada on whose behalf we stand in these hallowed halls. Canadian taxes should support Canadian jobs and each of us has the power to ensure they do.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, we know the answer to the immediate solution is the liquidity.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food gave its response, five or six major things that should have been done already. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture had a 12-point program. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Pork Council, the Ontario Pork Industry Council, all these people provided us with the solutions, 60, 70, 80 days ago, as to what we should do.

We are still hearing their appeals. Reliance on current programs is the fallback that the government has used. In all fairness, I appreciate the way the question was asked, but there is an immediacy that is past urgency. People are on their knees. They are throwing the keys in. They are walking into the banks and telling them to take them. They cannot keep selling them for $50 or $100 less than what they for them.

People are hurting. There is not a large pork or cattle industry where I live, but it is important. People are desperate. I fail to grasp why the government will not respond with the sense of urgency and passion required. These are very reasonable people. Members would know them from the associations I mentioned. They frequently come to see us at the agriculture committee. They are on the Hill all the time. Their knees are worn out from begging.

We have to do more and we had to do it yesterday. I believe there is a future. When members ask me what my party has done, I am proud to say we have driven this agenda. We got the standing committee to make that report. We sent it to Parliament. We gave the solutions a long time ago. They should not be sitting on the minister's desk.

The government members can do one thing, and that is phone the minister right now. Ask him why he has not acted. The minister cannot hide from these people. They are hurting.

Livestock Industry February 13th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

The fact that we are having an emergency debate tonight, 12 days after black Friday, only confirms that the Conservative minority has failed to respond positively to the plight of the hog and cattle industries.

I am calling the government's bluff on its so-called December aid package. If it was so helpful, why are farmers calling it a “cruel joke”? And why is the money not in their hands right now?

It is absolutely remarkable that in so many parts of the country constituencies that supported the Conservative Party have now found themselves abandoned.

If anyone criticizes the government, with their quite reasonable concerns, then doors are slammed in their faces and they are threatened with subtle retaliation by a vindictive Prime Minister.

To go back to the adjournment proceedings in Hansard of January 29, 2008, I asked the parliamentary secretary to explain “the absence of the federal minister in this crisis” and asked why there was not yet any “compassionate response”. He gave the PMO's stock horse manure response that all was well and that farmers were getting financial aid in the billions.

When we listen to the Conservatives talk about trotting out all the money for ground squirrels, it is quite clear that they have stopped listening to farmers.

On January 31, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food received the pork and cattle industry representatives who calmly, professionally, and yes sadly, told the story of their catastrophic losses.

If anyone wanted an exposé of the cruel jokes the Conservatives are pulling on the farmers of Canada, I would ask them to please reference the committee Hansard for Thursday, January 31, 2008. It is all right there. They will read about Conservative members calling desperate cattle farmers “wishy-washy”. Imagine people coming to Ottawa to remind the government of its promise to help them and instead being ridiculed.

I believe firmly in the independent farm. I believe that they produce good, secure, safe, quality food for Canadian families and themselves. I believe that the rural lifestyle is a worthy and honourable way of living that contributes mightily to our great nation.

Therefore, as a believer in the family farm, it breaks my heart to hear about the Conservative abandonment, but just as emotionally, it ticks me off something fierce. The Conservatives have made me and thousands of farmers righteously angry.

The agriculture committee made several positive recommendations. Numerous farm groups, provincial and federal, all over this country, have made very positive and practical solutions. These suggestions have yet to be acted upon.

Why, on Valentine's Day eve, is the massacre of Canadian agriculture being allowed to proceed?

Listening to that con job is way too much. The government is taking our farmers for granted. Farmers know they are being scammed while their neighbours are going bankrupt. This is shameful and disgusting.

The Prime Minister can go around making repeat announcements, but in the farmers' eyes he will be remembered as Canada's cruellest Prime Minister ever.

I will now read from that committee Hansard because it is better from an objective standpoint that we really get a feel for what went on.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association said:

We were here two months ago, and unfortunately I think there are very few bankable results that we can report on. We'd hoped to give you a progress report; I think the progress report is pretty thin, and that's unfortunate.

The association went on to say:

--producers were expecting a lot more, and I think it has fallen far short of what was expected.

Unfortunately because of this absence of federal action, we have seen both Alberta and Ontario move out on their own.

From the Canadian Pork Council, Mr. Steven Moffet said:

I don't have to tell you guys that aside from the economic activity we're losing, these are farm families who are losing their livelihoods. There are employees who have worked on these farms who have to go looking for something else to do. This is a devastating situation, and we all know that. That is why we've asked for something to deal with the liquidity.

Again, the pork council stated:

Let me be clear that the December 19th response was a cruel joke to many of our producers. There were false hopes and false assumptions and false expectations that simply weren't deliverable. The dollars are there but currently not available to help us through the process

The cattlemen stated:

If somebody thinks the problem's solved and the money's flowing, they might want to come out to Saskatchewan. I could perhaps introduce them to some producers.

The pork council stated further:

My response is very simple: the time to talk is over; the time to deliver is now. Talking doesn't help us anymore. The direction needs to come from the political side down. We've been working with the bureaucrats for about two to two and a half months, and I think they're very clear on our position and our understanding.

Numerous examples go on for pages and pages. Six days before Christmas farm and agriculture groups were told they would be helped. They went through the process. Two months later and there still has been no action.

We hear that all kinds of programs have been announced, but these people need something else. They need hard cash. We know how good the industry is. We know it can compete with anyone in the world. We know our families, whether they are urban or rural, very much appreciate the agricultural communities and our independent farms.

When we make this case, I wish the rhetoric would stop and the minister would start to write the cheques. We know what is needed. Farmers know what is needed. The pork council knows what is needed. The cattlemen's association knows what is needed.

The fact that the provinces have to pick the ball up for us is an embarrassing thing. We should be there front and centre. We should not be waiting and debating whether it is a long term solution. They will not be around in the long term if we do not act now.

Very kindly, I ask the government to respond, stop with the invective and the cruelty and address the situation of the pork and beef industry.

Non-Profit Organizations February 11th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I was recently contacted by a constituent who shared a sobering message regarding the current government's increasing neglect of non-profit organizations across this country.

This constituent, who works to promote and support volunteers and volunteerism in her community, said, “It is becoming a real struggle for non-profits. Since the Conservatives have taken over, funding has basically dried up”. She went on to express her concern for the continuation of non-profits. She said, “Many volunteer centres across Canada are currently in survival mode”.

I do not know why the Prime Minister wants to be remembered as the cruellest ever. Does he not see that volunteers and non-profits across this country are the backbone of a caring society? Will he use the upcoming budget to provide funds to help the non-profit organizations?

I call upon my parliamentary colleagues to join me in expressing our appreciation for the volunteers across this great country.

Forestry Industry February 4th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, January 31, the natural resources committee passed a resolution insisting that the Prime Minister free up the promised money right now for hard hit forest communities.

The Prime Minister must act right now to help smaller communities across Canada to survive the devastation that his government has imposed on these communities. It is hard to imagine that after two years the forestry industry continues to be ignored.

We await the Prime Minister's announcement flowing the funds for the community development trust. If he does not act immediately, and instead holds these workers ransom until July, then Canadians will know his words are empty. In accordance with the committee's direction, he should release this money right now.

January 30th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for recognizing all my efforts in bringing forestry back to the federal agenda.

Point by point I have outlined the shortcomings of the latest Conservative scam. We in northwestern Ontario will not be fooled.

Canadians in crisis want the government to release the available surplus now. Maybe some jobs and some plants can be saved. One thing is certain. If we wait until July, more plants will close and more workers will lose their jobs.

On behalf of those workers and families who are suffering from tough economic times, I ask for compassion. Deliver the money now. Do not hold these workers hostage any longer.

January 30th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, as you will recall, Professor Irwin Corey once stated, “If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going”.

So it is with the most recent announcement of $1 billion for the provinces to help hard hit communities. It is trying to go everywhere but goes nowhere.

On the surface it sounds like a grand plan. Regrettably, it is little more than a scam. Believe it or not it reflects the worst of the Conservatives' hidden agenda.

In spite of being the beneficiary of the Liberal government's record of annual budget surpluses, the fact remains that it was a Conservative government that drove this nation into those huge deficits.

Despite inheriting sound finances, the Prime Minister has chosen to tie this relief money to the next budget. The shameful reality of this tactic is that the communities in crisis will not receive any of these funds until June or July.

Once again, I call upon the Prime Minister to release this $1 billion immediately. I do this knowing full well that the proposed community development trust has serious flaws.

For instance, the money will be distributed on a per capita basis to each province and territory. Even Alberta whose economy is bursting at the seams will receive millions of dollars; whereas Ontario, with its thousands of job losses, will receive only $211 million.

That is why industry, labour, communities and families are condemning this as “a billion too little and two years too late”.

The fact that there are no conditions on the use of the funding further means that each province can spend the money as it sees fit. It will not save one job or one plant.

It is truly shameful that the government is playing politics with the lives of Canadians. It displaces all of the progress made by the forest industry with regard to the positive suggestions for assisting the forest products industries.

Many organizations, such as the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, the Canadian Institute of Forestry, the steelworkers union, the Ontario Forest Industries Association and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, all have made positive suggestions. None of this would even be necessary had the Liberal government's forest competitive strategy been implemented at the $1.5 billion level.

This tactic of announce it in January, but wait until July scam is absolutely shameful.

January 29th, 2008

I agree, Mr. Speaker, that the government should be committed.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture and a broad spectrum of community group representatives met recently and suggested solutions that the federal government must provide. I hope it does.

My constituent, Mr. Erik Johansson, president of Thunder Bay's Federation of Agriculture, advises: “Some form of federal 'Made in Canada' or 'Grown in Canada' product identification legislation is of critical importance. Having food products on the grocery shelf labelled as 'Product of Canada' when they were really produced or grown in another part of the world is just wrong”.

He advises: “That being said, there is an immediate need to support local producers. Many have been running on a financial shoestring since BSE hit, and for many this current crisis is the straw that will break them if they do not get some kind of immediate help”.

“The other major point to be considered,” he advises, “is that the majority of processing and packing power in the Canadian meat industry is under 'offshore' control. If a majority of the--