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

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

I said tell the truth.

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

I just want you to tell the truth. You stand there so sanctimonious-

Speech From The Throne January 27th, 1994

Tell the truth, not all of you.

Justice January 27th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, a secret trial was held in Brampton, Ontario last month. We know that the presiding judge was one Mr. Justice John Webber who closed the court and sealed the trial records at the request of the accused who felt that public knowledge of the case would have endangered his family. That is all we know.

Consider what the public does not know. Canadians do not know the name of the accused, the charge against him, or the sentence he got. As the Globe and Mail observed, we do not know what evidence was presented and what testimony was given. We do not know the nature of the accused's appeal for secrecy, the nature of the arguments against it, or the quality of the judge's decision in granting it.

This is going too far. Gag orders under the Criminal Code prohibiting publication of some evidence may have their place, but a whole trial entirely in secret? That is unacceptable. It arouses suspicions unfortunately about the judiciary.

Canadians deserve a full explanation.

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I want to make a couple of observations and then ask a question of the hon. member.

The 35th Parliament is only a week old today and I think a lot of us on this side of the House are getting a bit tired of the Bloc members harping on sovereignty. Bloc members should be mindful of the fact that they have been elected to the opposition and that the task they fulfil is an important one. They should be here representing all provinces, not just the province of Quebec.

The hon. gentleman was complaining about certain aspects of the infrastructure program. He is suggesting that we in the federal government should just send bags of money to Quebec City: no accountability, no questions asked, no thought given as to how the money is going to be spent in the province of Quebec.

Surely those members should get serious. If we are going to be responsible to all Canadians, if the federal government is going to be responsible to federal taxpayers, it should take its full responsibility with respect to expenditures of federal money under the infrastructure program, whether the money is spent in the province of Quebec, the province of P.E.I., the province of Manitoba or anywhere else in the country.

Is this member really serious when he suggests the federal government should abrogate its responsibilities and not show any concern whatsoever on how money is spent in the province of Quebec?

If this member is really preaching sovereignty-and that is what I hear-perhaps he would like to tell us whether he might like to forgo the federal share altogether. We are going to see hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the province of Quebec under this program. Would he like to forgo this money and let Quebec go on its own?

Speech From The Throne January 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, a point of order. We are not getting the translation. I want to bring that to the attention of the House.

Speech From The Throne January 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I do not pretend to be an expert on Quebec politics but I can tell you one thing. I do not know what his definition of popularity is but I did check the voting results in the riding where the right hon. Prime Minister serves and he won with an overwhelming majority. I think that in his riding he is a very popular politician. I will make this prediction. After four to five years of his prime ministership not only will he be exceedingly popular in his own riding but he will be exceedingly popular right across the province of Quebec.

Speech From The Throne January 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I will try to answer his questions as best as I can.

In so far as this Parliament examining the kinds of issues that he raised and wants examined, of course we are in favour of that. The committees will be up and running in the next few days and they are going to be working very hard.

The Prime Minister has already pointed out when it comes to tax matters, especially the GST, the finance committee will be given instructions to do a very thorough job. The finance committee will also be taking into consideration not only the budget that will be brought down next month but future budgets as well.

I say very sincerely to the hon. member from the Bloc that there will be plenty of opportunity at the committee level to discuss all the issues that weigh so heavily on his mind.

Let me respond for a moment to his remarks about his leader not being a man who wants to take Quebec out of Canada. As far as I know, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois calls himself a sovereignist.

My definition of sovereignty is a country that is sovereign, separate from another country. It seems to me when a party leader says he wants to establish a country that is sovereign, that is a country which is separate and apart from Canada. As far as I know the province of Quebec, which is a terrific province and one that is as good as any other province in this country, is still not a separate country.

Let us not try to treat this as some kind of semantic argument. This is a political problem and a political issue. No fancy dancing with semantics will change it. What we are talking about here is a faction in this House that wants to break up the country.

If the Péquistes in Quebec win the next provincial election and if, God forbid, they win the referendum as they promise to do, does anyone think that these ladies and gentlemen who call themselves the Bloc will be sitting around here representing the best interests of Canada? Not on your life.

Let us put a stop to this talk about semantics. One more thing. The hon. member tries to misquote the Prime Minister when he said that the Prime Minister was indicating that we were going to solve all our economic problems and revamp our social programs in the coming year. Nobody ever said that.

When it comes to government and politics, a year is a very short period of time. In fact, one never completely solves all economic problems and one never completely solves all social problems. This is an ongoing thing.

We have promised to tackle these problems head on. We are going to make some changes. We are going to create jobs. We are going to turn this economy around, but it will not be overnight and it will not happen in one year.

Speech From The Throne January 21st, 1994

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to congratulate you on your appointment this week. It is an appointment much deserved. I am sure that the good people of Stormont-Dundas are very proud of you.

I also want to offer my sincere congratulations to my good friend and colleague and now former room-mate who was elected Speaker this week. It is a great honour. I know that he will serve us and the whole country very well.

Over the past five years I have come to know the Speaker well. I can tell Canadians with utmost certainty that he is kind, decent and a man of great integrity. We parliamentarians would do well to emulate our new Speaker. I will do everything in my capacity to do that.

I also want to thank the people of Winnipeg St. James for electing me to my second term. It is indeed an honour to represent the people of Winnipeg St. James. I promise to continue to do my best to represent their best interests.

It is a privilege to participate in this debate. Before I get on to the economy, which is the number one priority for this new government, I want to talk about restoring integrity to government which is a preoccupation of the Prime Minister.

Over the past 10 years Canadians came to believe that they could not trust their government any more. In fact, it spilled over to include almost all politicians. Canadians thought that they could not trust anyone any more. They saw sleaze everywhere. Sometimes they saw sleaze when none existed. People were in the grips of cynicism. Such was the mood of Canadians. They were distrustful and cranky and they used the last election to make a point: "Mess around with me and mess around with my country and you're gone, you're history". The people across the way, the Bloc Quebecois, would be very clever to take note of that.

That explains, at least in part, why there are so many new faces in this the 35th Parliament, over 200 new MPs, an unprecedented number.

The message we Liberals received, one which we have already acted upon, is that Canadians want a government they can respect, a government of integrity, a government that works with Canadians not against them, a government that says what it means and means what it says and, in these difficult times, they want a government that is lean but, as the Prime Minister has pointed out and as the seconder to the throne speech pointed out, not mean. That can be done. A compassionate government can make difficult financial decisions. I think that the government has made a good start in that regard. We understand that people do not want a big spending, pompous government. They want one which is down to earth. They want practical managers who are careful with the public purse.

Examples of such careful decisions were the cancellation of the Pearson airport contract, cuts in government departments and staff, and the Prime Minister's services such as the sale of the so-called Mulroney air force 1 aircraft or the bulletproof Cadillac and the proposed reforms to the House of Commons budget and procedures where we will see a significant reduction in the services offered to members of Parliament.

I am enthusiastic about our government's promise to delegate more power to opposition MPs in standing committees in influencing public policy and determining legislation.

These actions all highlight the characteristics of our government, frugality, rationality and openness which we solidly stood for during the election campaign. These are some of the things that reflect the style of this new government, a government that wants to earn the respect and trust of Canadians.

If this is done, and I am confident that the government is well on its way to that goal, Canadians will I believe be more understanding of the difficult decisions which are bound to come. I think the electorate has already responded positively to the messages and signals that we have set out.

I have taken note of some of the letters I have received and I want to read into the record a few of the comments made by constituents in letters to me.

"Mr. Chrétien is an honest man and I am sure he will work for the people in Canada to the best of his ability". Jean Cutting from St. James.

Joyce Chapman of St. James writes: "I am impressed with Mr. Chrétien. I have a feeling he is an honest man. What a difference from King Brian".

There are more letters. "I do not know what is involved in the job of the Prime Minister but it seems to me that he has a frugal nature that will extend to all of his work," writes Cathy McLean of St. James.

Here is one from Carey and Christine Lee of my riding: "So far the Liberals have shown that you don't need all the bells and whistles that the Tories had to run a government. I hope it stays that way. Keep up the good work".

Those are just some of the comments made by constituents. You can tell they are listening and watching, as they should.

Let us hope that the days of bad mouthing everything the government tries to do are gone for good. We have had enough of the neo-Conservative nonsense that government is essentially bad, that it is an enemy of the people.

Over the period of Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney we were told that the government should just get out of the way and leave most big decisions to the marketplace. I can say that I have the utmost respect for the marketplace and, yes, government is far from perfect. The neo-Conservative approach to government certainly proved that. But in a democracy, Sir, there is a major role for government. It can lead. It can act as a partner. It can work toward equality and justice for all and it can be a unifying force for good.

The Prime Minister understands that perhaps better than any person in this country. Instead of dismissing government as ineffectual this Prime Minister is committed to making government work better for all Canadians.

Specifically we were given the mandate to turn the economy around. Our main objective as stated so often during the campaign and in the red book is to create jobs. We were committed to that through the throne speech and we will continue to be so in the upcoming budget.

Canadians want the opportunity to work. Our focus on developing opportunities for small and medium sized businesses by improving access to capital such as the Canada Investment Fund to help high technology firms means better employment prospects.

The tripartite infrastructure program has already been welcomed by politicians at all levels of government and the public in general. The reintroduction of the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and the establishment of the Youth Service Corps will give young people and others who have limited opportunities a chance for a good livelihood and prosperity.

Through partnerships, streamlining and improved accessibility to capital our Canadian economy will bounce back with much needed job opportunities.

We have already heard criticism on our policy on the deficit and the debt. The hon. member for Calgary Southwest apparently did not hear alarm bells go off during the throne speech debate on Tuesday with regard to the deficit and the debt.

I would suggest that the hon. leader of the Reform Party check his hearing. The throne speech did mention the importance of deficit reduction. Let me just quote a couple of the sentences in the throne speech: "The budget will be tabled in February and will include measures to bring the federal debt and deficit under control in a means that is compatible with putting Canadians back to work". The throne speech continued: "The government will work with the provinces to ensure that our shared fiscal challenge is dealt with co-operatively and creatively". I think that is pretty clear.

The throne speech did mention the importance of deficit reduction. That is why we proposed a prudent balance to the economy as mentioned in the red book. Members can be sure that the budget will reflect that.

As the Prime Minister so clearly pointed out yesterday the best way to control the deficit is through job creation. It creates revenues and thus lessens the need for cutbacks to important government services.

Let us not hear any more talk about the government not being serious about the deficit and the debt. Instead of rhetoric and corny analogies the opposition should offer alternatives and ideas.

I am excited about the government restating its commitment to a national forum on health. I find a touch of irony here that the hon. Leader of the Opposition should come out in defence of medicare and social programs. On this issue we agree. However this is the same man who wishes to take the province of Quebec out of Confederation. Let us try to understand the situation. He wants to save our most cherished social program which brings Canadians together, but at the same time would rather forsake it to break up the country. I do not believe that the people of Quebec see it that way. I cannot envisage a Canada without medicare and I cannot see Canada without Quebec.

The government is completely committed to maintaining medicare and the social safety net. Admittedly there are problems with the system and we in the Liberal Party have been long concerned by the situation, not just since becoming government. How better a way for Canadians to influence the future of health care in this country than through a national forum. We have agencies and ordinary citizens who may come together with federal and provincial politicians to strengthen, not weaken, universal health care. Not only is medicare a way to cover service costs, but it is available to all, not just the rich. The only qualifier for our health care system is that one be a Canadian resident. We pledge to keep this inherent right for all Canadians in the future.

I cannot forget the riding and the province which I am privileged to represent in this House. Growth in the Manitoba economy in the last 10 years has been well below the national average. My good friend from Winnipeg South has done research on this and has made that case forcefully, not only here in Ottawa but in the Manitoba legislature when he served the people of the provincial constituency of Osborne so well. He showed graphically with strong evidence that Manitoba when it comes to its own economy, compared to the economies of other provinces, has not kept up to the national pace, if I can put it that way.

We now have 12 government MPs from the province of Manitoba and as the chair of the Manitoba Liberal caucus I am confident that this fine group of experienced and some rookie members will work together as a team. I can assure the House that we are all Canadians first and foremost.

As we say though, we believe Manitoba should have a just share of the nation's prosperity. We have an excellent senior minister in the hon. Minister for Human Resources and Western Economic Diversification. He knows the province of Manitoba as well as he knows the back of his hand. His assurances of economic growth in our province give me optimism for the near future.

Manitoba will benefit in the short term through the infrastructure program, a $68.3 million investment by the federal government and over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. We have also heard of a revamped core area initiative with a wider scope. This means good news on the horizon for all the people in Winnipeg and not just those in the downtown area.

In my riding a vibrant aerospace industry exists. Part of this industry took a serious hit when the helicopter contract was cancelled. Our party made very clear during the election campaign our intention to revoke approval of this deal because of its enormous costs. The Prime Minister carried through on that promise just days after the election.

While layoffs brought all of us pain, especially to the workers involved, I still believe there is a strong future for aerospace in Winnipeg-St. James. Our government I am sure will do everything to make this happen. We have taken a leap of faith in our defence conversion program which proposes to adapt aerospace technology to civilian projects. With the right policy we will see more, not fewer, jobs coming to the province of Manitoba.

I also consider the Winnipeg International Airport a constituent of sorts. As a regular stop for several domestic and international airlines the Winnipeg International Airport can become a major centre for air cargo facilities. Studies prove that Winnipeg is in an ideal location, at the heart not only of North America but between western Europe and the Pacific rim.

Government and the private sector are now working to create what is called an intermodal transportation service at the Winnipeg International Airport. I can see no reason why it cannot become a world class facility worth billions of dollars and hundreds of jobs for Winnipeg and Manitoba. I believe our government will be committed to supporting this initiative.

While I am on the subject of the Winnipeg International Airport and before I close I would like to voice concerns relating to the proposed privatization of the airport. The previous Tory government introduced a plan toward privatization but that plan has been put on hold by the new government pending a review. I think that is prudent on the part of the new government because the plan as proposed by the Tories raises many questions.

I would like to bring to the attention of this House the Auditor General's report on this matter. The report warns that privatization could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. In fact the Auditor General states that at Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, airports which were recently privatized, revenues are much lower than forecast. That shortfall could mean another hit on the taxpayer or it could mean slapping user fees on air travellers. Air travellers through Vancouver airport are familiar with such user fees and I can say that they do not like them.

Therefore, airport privatization, at least Tory style privatization raises concerns and a government review of how that is to be carried out is very much in order. Over and above cost concerns I have a concern about accountability or perhaps more precisely, a lack of accountability. That accountability as proposed by the previous government amounted to little more than the printing of an annual report and holding a public meeting once a year. To me that is not accountability.

If we are going to have a local airport authority to run the Winnipeg International Airport, and I am not opposed to this change in principle, there must be transparency and openness. Business cannot be done behind closed doors. Business plans proposed by such an authority that have a substantial impact on air travellers, people, or business around the airport or the airport itself should be scrutinized publicly. Such an authority should manage the airport on a sound business basis. However, the airport should make room on its board for people representing air travellers, labour and the public at large.

This government promises greater accountability. That accountability starts here in Ottawa, but it must extend right across the country and include all institutions of government. The Winnipeg airport is a public facility and it must be managed accordingly.

This approach fits in with the style of this government, a government committed to openness and whose Prime Minister is committed to restoring integrity to government.

In closing I would like to say that we face some daunting problems, repair of the economy and overhaul of social programs to name just a couple, and things cannot be turned around over night. I believe that if we offer good honest government, and I think we will, Canadians will give us the time needed to get the job done. The throne speech shows that that job has already begun.