House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 36% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Izzy Asper October 8th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to pay tribute to Israel “Izzy” Asper. His death marks the passing of a remarkable man.

He was a man of great empathy and compassion who was passionate about his city of Winnipeg, and he gave to it with his time, energy and money. Izzy was a visionary who believed in Winnipeg and he leaves his fingerprints all over it. An amazing philanthropist, Izzy was a patron of the arts, sports and education. He gave to them all and challenged others to do the same.

However, the legacy that he leaves with us is not only his philanthropy but his spirit, humanity and friendship. Izzy Asper was a champion of the west, a talented businessman and a clever attorney. He was a proud and loyal Liberal, but perhaps above all, a loving father and husband.

Izzy was a man who never forgot where he came from and never compromised on where he was going. His death is stunning. Winnipeg and Manitoba have lost a giant of a man whose legacy is almost everywhere in the city of Winnipeg. He will be greatly missed.

On behalf of my colleagues, I offer my condolences.

Carnegie Medal September 26th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, today three Canadians are going to receive the Carnegie medal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This prestigious medal is awarded to individuals who risk their lives to rescue other people from danger.

One recipient is George Haas, a farmer from Langenburg, Saskatchewan. Mr. Haas rescued two men when their truck overturned and became trapped in an ice covered pond, almost losing his own life in the process.

The second Canadian hero is William Gibb, who helped to break up a robbery in a store in Toronto and was stabbed and wounded in the struggle.

The third outstanding Canadian is Markham Bunnah from Calgary. He is being recognized for saving a man from the icy waters of the Bow River.

The Carnegie medal is inspired by rescue stories and was started in the United States in 1904.

These outstanding people and their selfless and brave actions illustrate how ordinary Canadians are capable of extraordinary feats when circumstances call for it.

On behalf of the House I would like to congratulate all three Canadian recipients of the Carnegie medal, true life heroes.

Interparliamentary Delegations September 25th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I have the hon. of presenting two reports this morning from interparliamentary delegations.

Pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House a report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 15th seminar of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which was held in the Cook Islands from August 16 to 23.

I also have the honour to present to the House a report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 42nd Canadian regional conference which was held in Victoria, British Columbia from July 12 to 18.

Leader of the Opposition September 18th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, last night when other members of the House were free to vote according to their beliefs on a matter of conscience, the Alliance Party, which up until now prided itself on being a populace party, was forced into a whipped vote.

What is worse is in this morning's newspapers I read that the Alliance leader was warning that there would be consequences for members who did not explain their whereabouts. In fact he is publicly criticizing members, including one on his own side, who chose to abstain from the vote.

One of the fundamental tenets of a free vote is the freedom to choose to vote yea or nay, or in fact to make the choice to abstain from voting. While I do not support abstentions, MPs are obliged to make choices, I think.

What is truly appalling is the apparent decision taken by the leader of the official opposition to force his members, without due regard to conscience, to vote no on issues as fundamental as human rights. That perhaps explains the one no show. Whatever the case, the action taken by the leader of the Canadian Alliance is to be condemned.

Parliament of Canada Act September 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am in favour of the concurrence motion but not in favour of the amendment.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Parliament of Canada Act September 17th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, even though I was in the House, I missed the vote on the proposed amendment and I would like to be recorded as opposed.

Supply September 16th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to stand and be counted. I say with great respect to the member who has just spoken that I profoundly disagree with him, but I certainly respect his position.

The proposed legislation enshrines religious liberty. The legislation says any church, any mosque, and any religious organization that does not support same sex marriage does not have to be a part of same sex marriage. They do not have to conduct any kind of ceremony with respect to same sex marriage. I am glad that we have that in the legislation because I can assure the House that if we did not have that kind of religious liberty I would not be supporting it, but I do.

I am sure that the member believes in religious liberty as well, but what does he say to the United Church of Canada which has evolved like so many institutions and now is in favour of same sex marriage? What does he say to the Unitarian Church of Canada? What does he say to the Quaker's of Canada who want to marry same sex couples? Will he deny them that religious liberty?

Terry Fox Run September 15th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the first Terry Fox Run took place in 1981. It attracted 300,000 participants across Canada and raised $3.5 million.

The Terry Fox Run is held each year to carry on the quest of the young man who began this annual tradition. After losing his own leg to cancer, Terry discovered that funding for cancer research in Canada was minimal. This was the motivation for his Marathon of Hope: to raise funds to help find a cure for cancer.

In the last 22 years over $300 million have been raised for cancer research in Terry's name. Each year thousands of volunteers organize Terry Fox Run events in Canada and around the world. This year was no different as the 22nd Terry Fox Run was held yesterday.

The emphasis of this event is not on how much is raised but rather on participation in Terry's memory to help him finish his Marathon of Hope.

As Terry said in 1980, “If you've given a dollar you're part of the Marathon of Hope”.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

I hear the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre saying it works. I think it works, although I think the member might agree that the government in Manitoba, which is NDP, will have to consider some public support. Looking not at the results of the election campaign but at the way in which it was waged, I think there was a paucity of funds. Maybe Manitoba will have to look at the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, you are giving me the high sign to close, so I will say that I think this is good, progressive legislation. Let us support it.

Canada Elections Act June 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-24 and the amendments under consideration at this time.

Let me say at the outset that I will be speaking in support of Bill C-24, not just because I happen to be a Liberal and a member of the governing party. I support Bill C-24 because it is the kind of issue that I have felt strongly about for a good many years. I have felt for a good many years that it is time for the public to take a much wider financial participation in our democracy.

I want to say some congratulatory remarks to the government for bringing Bill C-24 before the House at this time. I think it is an idea whose time has come. When the bill is passed and becomes law and when the law has been enforced for some years, I think it will be a model for many other countries around the world to follow. I believe it is that progressive.

I also want to congratulate the Prime Minister. In the months leading up to his retirement toward the end of this year or the beginning of next year he could have just sat back and done nothing, but he has not done that. He has been very active. Evidence of that is bringing forward Bill C-24, which I think in political terms and in legislative terms is a very bold act. I think he deserves our congratulations. This is going to be a long-lasting legacy in his name.

The particular amendment before us would allow for a review roughly a year from now, after the next election, let us say, and I think that is a good amendment. The opportunity to look at something that we parliamentarians have done in the recent past and to assess and evaluate the efficacy and value of the legislation is a good direction to take. Certainly I will be supporting not only the legislation but this particular amendment allowing for that kind of review. I think it is a good amendment and a good decision to take.

Now I want to ask myself a question and provide the answer. Why do I support Bill C-24? I happen to believe, and I have felt this way for a long time, that elections are at the centre of our Canadian democracy. Democracy belongs to all of us and we all have to take responsibility for it. That includes paying for it. There is no other way. If we are going to take financial responsibility for our democracy, that means we are going to have to take on our responsibility as taxpayers and share in the financial support for our democracy.

On the one hand we Canadians cherish our democracy, which I think is one of the best models of democracy in the world. We have had it for almost 136 years and would never want to give it up. Yet I find it passing strange that on the other hand, a lot of Canadians seem content and happy to surrender some control of that democracy to corporations and unions to save us a little bit of money. I think that is a dubious saving, to say the least.

There is of course this perception that big money involved in the financing of election campaigns bears with it or carries with it too much influence. We know, despite arguments to the contrary, that there is really no smoking gun in support of this perception. Nevertheless it is there.

I do not think there is any doubt that when it comes to big contributions to political parties, political campaigns and political candidates, they do to some extent provide access. Sometimes that is all we need: access. We do not have to be a direct participant with our money in a decision or in a process leading up to the decision. What we need is access. What we need sometimes is just the opportunity to present our case. From then on good things may well happen, not always, but they may well happen.

For example, well-to-do people can go to some classy fundraisers and pay $200 to $600 or maybe even more than that. With that, they have an opportunity to meet certain important people, particularly prime ministers. That is access. They may bend an ear for only half a minute or a minute, but perhaps there is some value to that. We always hear about the famous golf tournaments. One buys into a golf tournament and has an opportunity for a few rounds of golf with a cabinet minister, a deputy minister or someone else important. That is the kind of access we are talking about. I think anything that will offset that kind of perception is all well and good.

I want to deal with a particular matter that I think I heard the previous speaker talk about: the concern of some people that the money coming from the taxpayer in support of election campaigns would go to parties, as if somehow or another the money would actually go into the pockets of political parties for the pleasure and enjoyment of political parties, or that the money would be used for their profit, let us say. I do not think that is true. I think the money goes through the parties and the operative word is “through”. The money goes through the parties to enable them to express themselves and to communicate their policies and messages to the electorate. That is what the money is for.

Parties that have those kinds of resources from taxpayers will be able to express themselves better and more clearly, without fear or favour, as it were. I support the notion of putting the money through the parties. The parties, we can be sure, will spend the money, every nickel of it. In fact, another aspect of this which I think is important, and which the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca mentioned, is keeping a lid on spending, or in other words keeping control of spending. That is one of the great things we have under Canadian law. There are rigid, tight controls on election spending, and that it is the way it should be.

I hope that we always will keep a very careful eye on this control of spending. It is very important. It is one thing to get wider public financial participation into the process, but it is equally important to keep a tight rein on spending. I hope we never let that go.

I know that some people are not comfortable with asking taxpayers to participate in this way, but there is simply no alternative. It is either public support or private support and I think it is time for us to go to a greater scale of public support. Right now, considering rebates and other things that we use, around 59% of election spending is borne by the public purse. Under Bill C-24, that may go as high as perhaps 89% or 90%.

This kind of legislation is not new. The Province of Quebec has had it for a good long while, for many years now. There is an aspect of it in New Brunswick. In fact, in New Brunswick I think they fork over about $1.80 a head. Of course the Province of Manitoba has it and I think the legislation was enacted in 2000. It was put to the test for the first time in the recent provincial election in Manitoba on June 3.