House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament September 2002, as Liberal MP for Saint Boniface (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 52% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply March 16th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, first of all, there is no sanctimony on my part nor have I heard sanctimony on the part of my colleagues. We acknowledge that other governments have made contributions. Clearly what we have today is as a result of this government, previous governments and provincial and territorial governments. We have no difficulty in saying that.

My colleagues and I believe that if people put their minds to it, whether they be from my party or another, we can improve a law, a process and a number of other initiatives that might be undertaken. I guess my plea was to do exactly that, not to simply batter the government for the sake of doing it.

I appreciate that my colleague from the other side has indicated that there have been serious and responsible initiatives undertaken by this government that have been implemented. I applaud that because we do not often hear that. We hear selective picking here and there to try to pretend that particular incident can be generalized to the whole of Canada. We know that is nonsense, that is not accurate and it is not the way to conduct oneself.

Supply March 16th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time.

When this government was re-elected nearly two years ago, we pledged as elected officials “to work tirelessly to ensure Canada remains a place where Canadians feel secure in their homes and on the streets of their communities”. We will protect the right of all Canadians to live in healthy, safe communities. We have kept this commitment and continue every single day to keep it in co-operation with our partners, the provinces, the territories and the communities.

A number of people have forgotten that the federal government enacts laws. It is the provinces and the territories with their communities and the various programs that administer and indeed enforce those laws.

Perhaps during the day there will be a focus on some of the exchange that has occurred here. Are we saying that the laws are all wrong, or are we saying that there is a need to improve a number of aspects of the system?

The focus thus far has been on the federal government. The federal government is not alone. It has partners. My colleague mentioned the courts, the judges, the prosecutors, the officials of the court, the police officers. Is the Reform Party actually saying that the only problem is the laws the Government of Canada enacts?

I would like Reformers to get up from their chairs and confirm that. Are they saying other things? I am not sure they are clear. I think they are trying to frighten people, to suggest that all of the malaise for those who commit crimes rests with the federal government. If that is the case, what nonsense. It simplifies the shallow thinking that often goes into these kinds of debates. There is no thinking it through. It is a little more complex than laws.

The government fully understands the importance of providing Canadians with an environment in which they feel safe. We have taken steps to improve the system and will continue to work toward enhancing the quality of life of all Canadians. The following are but a few examples of the initiatives we have taken to that end.

Just yesterday the solicitor general introduced reforms to the Criminal Records Act that will make the criminal records of pardoned sex offenders available for background checks by agencies serving children and other vulnerable groups. This change is about children and we have to be particularly sensitive to it. We are committed to protecting them. I hear heckling on that point. I take it there is disagreement from the Reform Party.

Last week, the Minister of Justice tabled an in-depth review of the criminal justice system for youth, the most detailed one in 15 years, I might add.

The Minister of Justice introduced a balanced package, a comprehensive overhaul of the youth justice system that meets the needs of Canadians by clearly distinguishing between violent and non-violent crime and by ensuring meaningful consequences for both. As one part of this broad strategy for renewal of youth justice in Canada, the new criminal youth justice act will replace the Young Offenders Act.

Another initiative to help communities prevent crime in the first place is $32 million a year for the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention. To improve the situation of Canadians who unfortunately become victims of crime this government has taken action.

In the ten 10 minutes I have, I could not do justice to all of this government's initiatives.

Let me highlight a few. The Government of Canada is committed to combating organized crime.

Organized crime is not a new phenomenon, but it can take a number of forms. That is why this government has been vigilant in changing the tools needed by the forces of order in the fight against this scourge.

The present government has given those bodies responsible for enforcing the law easier access to electronic surveillance in order to catch the leaders of organized crime.

Canadians have seen the scope of the violence caused by organized crime, which strikes indiscriminately. The present government has established new offences making involvement in criminal organizations a crime.

One of the main ways of attacking this type of crime is to ensure that the crimes involved do not pay. While criminal organizations cannot be imprisoned, as we all know, they do have a character vital to their existence. This character is reflected in their collective wealth.

When we go after the wealth of an organization, we also go after the ties that bind its members to it. Let us seize the proceeds of crime and all organized crime is destabilized.

Experience has demonstrated that co-ordinated enforcement efforts are the best way to achieve this goal. It has expanded its integrated proceeds of crime units in the past two years from three units to thirteen units in every part of the country.

These units bring together under one roof the talents of all those involved in the law enforcement continuum, including the RCMP and provincial police, forensic accounting experts, customs officers and federal justice lawyers.

The efforts made by the government do not stop at our borders but include working closely with our foreign partners for the purpose of dealing with organized crime in a comprehensive fashion.

Let me now speak about victims of crime. Since 1999 this government has undertaken countless legislative initiatives that improve the justice system to benefit victims of crime directly and indirectly.

These include the enactment of provisions to enhance the protection of children victimized by sexual abuse, provisions to facilitate the provision of testimony by young victims, elimination of the defence of intoxication in crimes of violence such as assault and sexual assault, and provisions to restrict the production of personal records of sexual offence victims to the accused.

We all know that is not enough. In its recent report, the Commons justice committee confirmed that victims of crime are not asking for tough laws, tough penalties, for vengeance or for rights to be taken away from the accused. They want a voice, respect, information and help to participate in an often demanding criminal justice system. We will give them just that. In the next few weeks the Minister of Justice will table a series of Criminal Code amendments.

The amendments the minister will introduce in the coming weeks will ensure a source of information for victims.

These will ensure that victims receive more information about their role in the criminal justice system, services available and about the case in which they are involved.

I will conclude with these comments.

What have the results been thus far? The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reports that in 1997 the rate of police reported crime decreased for the sixth year in a row, falling 5%. The rate of violent crimes declined for the fifth consecutive year, down 1.1% in 1997.

Rates decreased for almost all violent offences, including sexual assault, robbery and homicide. The strength of the justice system is its ability to constantly evolve and to improve. We are looking at measures in which we must do that.

I simply want to encourage all colleagues to address the issues in a comprehensive way. It is not sufficient to say the laws are inadequate. Some are, no doubt. Some need to be changed, but clearly there are other components of the system we need to study and where changes are required.

To simply say the federal government is responsible for all this is an irresponsible statement.

Natural Disasters March 8th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, my colleague misunderstands the situation completely. These were accountable advances. Up to $5,000 in money from the Government of Canada was put into the hands of each person who needed assistance. When they were given the money there was a signed statement saying that it was an accountable advance and that it would be repaid.

Almost 2,000 people were helped in Manitoba. To date 1,700 have come to an agreement with the Government of Canada. Two hundred are in the process of coming to an agreement and we are working with another hundred, hoping to come to an agreement quickly.

Research And Development March 2nd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, we have taken several positive steps. We are building on the past: the Canadian Foundation for Innovation in 1997; the Canadian millennium scholarship fund in 1998; $1.8 billion in investments in science and technology this year; the centres of excellence, the granting councils, the National Research Council, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation; $1.5 billion in health research, prenatal programs and research and for nurses doing research to enhance health care.

We want to keep our brightest and our best in Canada. We want to make Canada the place of choice for knowledge based workers.

The Budget March 2nd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I have three points to make. I would have hoped my colleague from the Conservative Party would have been a bit clearer and more precise than my colleague from the Reform Party.

Over nine years the Tories let the debt climb to almost $600 billion; they almost tripled it in nine years. When we came into power in 1993 the debt was $190 billion. It took us about four years to get it down to zero. He wants to forget that, but I will not let him forget and neither will my colleagues.

With regard to the TPC he should know that we are following the interim report very closely. We want to make sure that we respond in an appropriate kind of manner. I assure my colleague that we will do so.

With regard to the overall investments in science, research and technology, this is good news for all Canadians: young Canadians and people who want to stay in Canada. This is good news for Manitoba. This is good news for every province and each of the three territories.

I hope my colleague will stand and applaud the government's decisions in that area as well as decisions in other areas such as gradual tax reductions which will accumulate and will translate into significant savings. We are not pie in the sky. We will not promise something we cannot sustain and then have to remove. We will do it step by step and we will get there just like we did with the elimination of the deficit.

The Budget March 2nd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I would have hoped he might have been a bit more objective. Clearly the government has a responsibility to inform Canadians with regard to the programs it has and to the decisions it has made in the budget. That is exactly what is happening.

With regard to the comments about destroying the health care system, this is absolute nonsense. We had a $42 billion deficit when we came into power. That has been eradicated. What has been the major investment that has been undertaken subsequent to that? It has been in health with $11.5 billion dollars in transfer over five years to the provinces. There will be $1.4 billion to undertake research which will improve the quality of health care for all Canadians throughout the nation.

With respect to the other comments that he made, particularly the reduction of taxes, I indicated how superficial the Reform Party agreement is. If we gave a dollar a day tax reduction to the 15 million Canadians who file taxes, it would cost the government $15 million a day. In one year it would cost $5.4 billion. Does Reform not get it?

The Budget March 2nd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to make a few comments on the budget, which I reviewed very closely and which I discussed with Canadians across the country.

I made well over 50 calls and talked with well over 200 people about this budget. I want to share some of their views.

Most people felt that it was really a very balanced approach to the finances, to handling or managing if you wish, the finances of the nation. They were pleased with that. Clearly there were some who would have preferred a little more here or a bit more there, but overall I think it was fair and objective. If we look at the newspapers and the people with whom we talked, the report would be an extremely positive one.

I will briefly make the following points, the first one being about the tax reductions. Some people have tried to pooh-pooh them, tried to say that they were too small, too modest. Of course I would like, as I am sure my colleagues would like, to pay fewer taxes. But the truth of the matter is that if one looks at what was done last year, add what was done this year, when all of that is implemented there will be $16 billion plus worth of tax reductions.

I want to share with colleagues a very interesting fact. Let us pretend for a moment that I have the authority to give every individual tax filer a dollar a day tax break. Most people would say that is not a whole lot, and it is not really. However, at the same time there are 15 million taxpayers in the country. If we were to multiply the $15 million a day by 365 days a year, we would find the cost to the federal treasury in lost revenue would be $5.4 billion. That is a whole lot of money. It all depends on from what end we look at the decision.

Some people have tried to suggest that the transfers for health are not terribly significant. Of course that is not true. They are large. They are immense at $11.5 billion over the next five years. That is a lot of money. A lot of people have not talked about the $1.4 billion in research which will permit a number of important initiatives to try to understand better what we get from the $80 billion expenditure in health in Canada on a yearly basis. There are significant investments in health which are seen extremely positively.

The area of science, research and development has not been talked about a whole lot, a group of programs for which I have special responsibility. I want to share with my colleagues some of the comments made with regard to those decisions. I want to make sure they understand that they are not just coming from me. I quote from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada:

The federal government must be congratulated for having made such a commitment to research and for having paved a new way for integrated research in health.

Let us go to another organization, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada:

NSERC welcomes the 1999 budget decisions. We believe that many members of the science and engineering community will want to join me in expressing their appreciation for this vote of public support and confidence in their activities.

Here is another example with regard to the Networks of Centres of Excellences, the NCEs, as they are often called:

We are delighted at the 60% increase in the NCE budget. With this new funding, we will be able to add eight more centres of excellence.

And what did the AUCC have to say? It stated:

We are pleased that the government has made knowledge and innovation a key priority for the future.

We are pleased that the federal government has made knowledge and innovation a key priority for the future.

That is one of the points we must remember. In the budget the government has built upon previous budgets. For example, in the 1997 budget there was a massive investment of $800 million in the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Then the budget of last year added to the granting councils and a number of other initiatives so we would be doing leading edge research, which is what we are talking about when we talk about a knowledge based society and a knowledge based economy.

We are talking about giving Canadians the tools to make sure they can create jobs; to make sure they can create the quality of life we now enjoy; to make sure we can increase that quality of life for all Canadians; and to make sure we keep more of our youngest, our brightest and our best in Canada.

University of Toronto president, Robert Pichard, had this to say:

The University of Toronto is very pleased with the federal budget. This is the third federal budget that has strengthened our cause. We are very grateful for the new support.

We applaud the federal government's will to increase its investments in all areas of research.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation said:

These new funds mean that institutions will be able to offer the necessary working environment to keep our best researchers in Canada.

It is clear that we have invested heavily in innovation and knowledge. It is clear that the budget reinforces key measures taken in previous budgets. I have mentioned those. It is clear that we have announced an innovation strategy that reinforces key building blocks for renewing Canada's knowledge based economy. The key building blocks are there for improving that which we have, renewing Canada's knowledge base, clearly investing in research and development and innovation, and supporting the commercialization of knowledge.

The budget sets a direction for reducing our level of taxes to make Canada a location of choice for knowledge workers to live and to work. It does not provide all of the answers, but it takes a number of positive steps in the right direction.

Let us talk about the $1.8 billion invested in science, research and technology. Creating knowledge, what have we done in that area? We have invested in the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. We have invested in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. We have invested in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. As well we have invested in the National Research Council.

Investments are also being made in the areas of research and development and biotechnology.

Let us look at the second category of disseminating knowledge. We have invested $60 million in Smart Communities and $60 million in GeoConnections. Let us talk about commercialization knowledge.

There is the commercialization of knowledge: centres of excellence networks, $90 million; Technology Partnerships Canada, $150 million; Business Development Bank of Canada, $50 million; Canadian Space Agency, $430 million to stabilize the agency.

Let us talk about supporting le soutien de l'emploi, surtout chez les jeunes. We have the youth employment strategy at $465 million and the Canada jobs fund at $110 million.

We have made the right investments for Canadians in order to make sure that we create the jobs and the quality of life that they expect as a result of government working in partnership with others.

The budget provides considerable reinforcement for the key measures in the last three budgets to boost productivity, encourage innovation, and improve the well-being of Canadians in a knowledge-based global economy.

The keys to improving productivity have always been capital investment, innovative entrepreneurial spirit, and an increasingly skilled workforce.

In conclusion, I will just mention that there is also considerable funding for minorities, who will now be in a better position to build on what they have. The country that can provide its people with better tools, including the necessary training, will be a world leader.

The budget is about providing Canadians with the appropriate tools, including the training and education required and the climate to succeed in a knowledge based economy. The country that best provides these tools including the necessary training and education will be a leader in the 21st century.

Year 2000 February 11th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, western economic diversification through 100 points of service in the whole of western Canada is focused on this problem. We have people working on it on a daily basis.

We are finding and identifying the most relevant information. We are sharing that information widely, both directly and through small and medium size businesses. We are also providing guidance to those who need assistance in making sure they are Y2K compliant.

There have been a number of seminars and conferences. Today in British Columbia there is a forum on this very issue, where there are very credible resource persons available to assist.

Francophones Outside Quebec February 8th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, my department has made a modest but important number of investments, resulting in a number of projects, including the hiring of economic development officers who work in French with francophone communities and with the majority. And there are a number of studies showing what we need to do to boost economic development in French.

Partnerships have been formed not only between communities, but with entrepreneurs, men and women with businesses throughout western Canada.

What is now going on is good for western francophones, good for the West and good for Canada.

Western Economic Diversification December 7th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, there are two main points to be made. First, money loaned in the past is being collected very successfully. There is a loss of about 9.4% versus 3% for commercial lending and 20% for venture capital firms.

But WD does not loan money directly to businesses any more. It brings clients to the banks and they decide whether or not money should be loaned.

I should add that WD now focuses on providing information, business plan counselling and mentoring, particularly in the rural areas, through our 1-800 service. We are there to help the people locally.