House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was air.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Don Valley East (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 67% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply February 16th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I am not bound by cabinet solidarity anymore and the fact is that I agree with the hon. member. For the last 10 years I have been pounding away about this issue, but in fairness to the ministers of finance at the time, there were a lot of other priorities.

We know what it is like in government, though I am not sure the hon. member will ever know what it is like to be in government. If a party gets in government, it has to make compromises. We have to keep hammering away. We did receive money for the homeless and money for infrastructure and we put the whole gas tax issue on the map, but the former prime minister did not want to look at that. It was a source of disagreement between us. I am glad that the present Prime Minister is at least going down that road and has at least done this with the GST.

The Liberal Party is a very dynamic, creative group of people who enjoy the thrust and parry of debate. There is intellectual ferment. We give and we take, all for the betterment of the country. At least we are getting somewhere now.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply February 16th, 2004

Madam Speaker, I am glad my colleague raised this matter because it is very important. In the throne speech, the politically correct title was used, “Great Places To Live--A New Deal for Communities”, and that was to keep smaller communities happy. I want to keep them happy; they do have legitimate needs.

But unless we have been born and raised in or have lived in one of Canada's large cities, I do not think we can fully appreciate the unique nature of that experience. The daily trade-offs that an individual has to make in a big urban area are not like those that would have to be made in Peterborough or other smaller communities across the country. I wish we could all live in those smaller communities, but larger communities have unique problems and that is why I put so much emphasis on the Toronto area and the other big cities in the country.

One of the issues we have to deal with is that in our desire to deal with the deficit, five to ten years ago we downloaded not only the responsibility but the financial obligations to those communities; I know that the City of Toronto is almost broke. We cannot have the big cities in this country on their knees. The last time that kind of thing happened was in the Depression and the federal government had to bail them out. What I am saying is that now is the time for the federal government to bail out our municipalities.

Smaller cities like Peterborough have unique needs, and that is why the GST rebate will help everybody, but let us not be so politically correct that we lump large cities in with everyone else. It is the large cities that are receiving thousands of new people every day, immigrants from around the world, and they are being stretched to the limit. They do not have the resources to deal with the problems being created.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply February 16th, 2004

It should not get us off the hook.

I grew up in Toronto. It is a wonderful city yet I see the infrastructure crumbling. I see holes in the streets and crevices in the sidewalks. I see the homeless sleeping in the streets. I see parks unattended. I see garbage not being picked up. Municipalities are really taking it on the chin. It is up to the senior governments to ensure that money flows through and flows through properly.

I was happy when I was the regional minister for the greater Toronto area to work with my caucus colleagues to ensure that we made significant investments. We have seen a renaissance of the arts in Toronto with the construction of a new opera house, the construction of a new addition to the Ontario Art Gallery, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Roy Thomson Hall and of course the new National Ballet School on Jarvis Street, which not only is a cultural necessity for the entire nation, but is a big part of our urban renewal in that part of town. I have been supported by my colleague, the member for York South—Weston, on these ventures, and the former chairman of metropolitan Toronto has been a great tower of strength in all those deliberations.

We also put a billion dollars among us, the province and the municipalities into GO Transit. For those who unfortunately do not have commuter rail in their communities, GO Transit is perhaps one of the great resources we have in the greater Toronto area. It transports thousands of people everyday to and from their jobs using conventional rail, using CN and CP infrastructure. We are putting a billion dollars worth of infrastructure into GO Transit.

Part of that money will also help to build Canada's first dedicated rail link from the downtown core to the airport. Those people who go through Pearson International Airport will see one of the world's great airports when it opens this April. It is a magnificent piece of construction and it will be a gateway not just to the greater Toronto area and southern Ontario but to all of Canada. That will be linked with a 15 minute rail service to Union Station with a connection to the subway on the way down. That means people will be able to get to the airport. As the airport is built for 50 million people, it must have rapid transit. Canada cannot allow our car mentality society, our highway driven society to suck the lifeblood out of our ability to commute from downtown to the airport.

I am getting close to the end, but one thing that is not in here, when we talk about the new agenda for the municipalities, are ways in which we can use the tax system to encourage brownfield building. We have to stop, certainly in the greater Toronto area, the building of prime farmland and urban sprawl which is creating gridlock. It is unproductive and I think it is creating social division within the great Toronto area. We have to work as a federal government to ensure that we have measures in place to stop urban sprawl. We have to work with the province of Ontario and the other provinces across the country.

The throne speech was a good start, but a lot more work has to be done. I know the Prime Minister's heart is in the right place and I will ensure that I support him with further measures to deal with all these issues that I have raised today.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In Reply February 16th, 2004

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to take part in the debate on the throne speech.

This is one of many throne speeches in my long career. The first one for which I was present was after the general election of 1974. In those 30 years a lot has happened, for the better I might add. When we ran in the 1974 election, the then prime minister, Mr. Trudeau, campaigned on capital assistance to cities, specifically urban transit, regional transit and help with all the infrastructure in our great cities. In Toronto, where I am from, that was particularly well received. However, the moment we got into office, the financial realities being what they were, we had to renege on all of those commitments.

For 30 years the federal government has taken a back seat to helping municipalities across the country. One thing I am most proud of in the last number of years is being able to work from the inside of government to try to change attitudes in Ottawa, attitudes, not just in the cabinet, but in the bureaucracy. There is an attitude in this town that says that somehow the municipalities out there, the great cities and their infrastructure problems, are not really the responsibility of the federal government. Time and time again at cabinet committee meetings I heard the argument “We do not want to own the problem”. That is an unacceptable phrase to use at any time.

I can remember that when we talked about helping the homeless some years ago there was incredible resistance within the bureaucracy, within government and within the prime minister's office to somehow deal with the problem. We had meetings and we found that each department was operating in a silo, that there was no one department that could look across government and really zero in on how we could help deal with one of the tragedies of our time.

No one in the House can be proud that in the year 2004, when we have a very prosperous economy, a well educated economy, we can leave Parliament Hill or go to Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver or smaller communities across the country and trip over people sleeping in the streets. That is not the mark of a great society and that is one of our great failures. When I say ours, I mean collectively, because the responsibility is not just in Ottawa, it is also at the municipal and provincial levels.

Our municipalities cannot deal with problems like the homeless unless they have funding. We fought in cabinet, in caucus, the Toronto caucus in particular, to get funding for the homeless. It has helped to some degree, but what has happened in the last year or so in our cities, particularly in Toronto, is we see an increase in the homeless despite the fact that we have put more money toward the entire problem.

My colleague from Peterborough just reminded me that I am splitting my time with him. I would not want to do Peterborough out. It is a smaller municipality and is a very important municipality which also needs the help which was signalled in the throne speech.

We made a start with the homeless, but it is not nearly good enough. There is something radically wrong with this society in this part of our history when we have such wealth and when we reduced income taxes by $100 billion over five years, yet we have potholes in the streets of Ottawa and Toronto. We have buses that do not operate in Toronto. We have subways and streetcars breaking down. We have people sleeping in the streets. We have waiting lists of people trying to get into our hospitals. If we bundle people up in an ambulance and try to get them to the hospital in Toronto, they will be turned away from hospital after hospital and they end up kilometres away from where they live. That is not the mark of a mature or prosperous society. We have our priorities wrong.

We could argue that perhaps we cut too hard and too fast in the mid-1990s. I do not want to get into that debate. We had that debate in cabinet. The fact is we are in a surplus position and we have to use our money wisely. We have to deal with some of these issues which are very salient, particularly to the large municipalities, but also right across the country in terms of hospital waiting lists, in terms of the homeless and in terms of the municipal infrastructure.

I was really happy to see the Prime Minister campaigning, when he was minister of finance, off and on. He rapped me on the knuckles a few times when I talked about the gas tax as minister of transport, but then he adopted that and I was very pleased. I went one further at the same meeting and said “Why stop there? Why not do something about the GST?”

Guess what? In the throne speech the Prime Minister actually has delivered. The government will work with the provinces to share with municipalities a portion of the gas tax revenues and determine other fiscal mechanisms to achieve these goals. Also, as of February 1, we will turn over the GST that the municipalities pay. That is a really good down payment. When we combine that with the infrastructure money we have made available in previous budgets, that is a good start, but it is not good enough. It should not get us off the hook.

Marine Atlantic November 7th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that I will have to check on with Marine Atlantic. It has not come to my attention lately that there is a continuing problem. I accept the fact that the hon. member has some grave concerns about this. I will try to get the answers for him.

Transport November 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that Transport Canada has divested a lot of airports over the last number of years and is not involved in the daily operation.

We do have ACAP funding which provides for certain safety measures and we have spent nearly $5 billion on various improvements over the years. However, regional development agencies are entitled for regional variations to make certain investments and that is what is done from time to time.

Highway Infrastructure October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, there is an agreement that our contribution to construction of this highway will be 50%.

Highway Infrastructure October 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, last year we made a commitment regarding construction of this highway. We are going to pay 50% of the cost of constructing this highway.

Aboriginal People October 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, in case the hon. member has not listened to the earlier answers, the fact of the matter is that we have announced a policy that has been consistent with the government's approach to passenger rail for a number of years.

It has been well received by Canadians. Some critics, such as the opposition, obviously do not agree. Is the hon. member prepared to tell the people of British Columbia that they should not have good quality passenger rail service? A big chunk of the money announced on Friday will improve the equipment that will be used in his province.

Aboriginal People October 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as a minister of the Crown, I have the authority to discharge my duties, as do all other ministers and we will do that until such time as a change is made.

In the meantime, we have to focus on the fact that we have a policy here that is going to improve passenger rail across the country. In fact, the hon. member should take note that the western transcontinental fleet that is so important to his province of British Columbia will be totally refurbished by this announcement.