House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was place.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Mississauga West (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 63% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Contraventions Act October 10th, 2003

What did you do, pull up a chair?

Supply October 2nd, 2003

If the hon. member would listen and leave the computer alone for a moment, maybe he would understand.

It is very simple. It is about cashflow. When we signed the health accord with the provincial governments, all of the money was put in envelopes and it had to be spent exactly on what it was provided for. That is what I am talking about here.

If we say we are prepared to share a piece of the gas tax with municipal governments, does it make any sense at all to anybody that we would say to the provincial governments to go ahead and pass the money through if they want to? It is not an option. We want to make sure it gets there. We believe that most of the provincial governments will want to do that as well.

We respect the Constitution and the role of provincial governments. It is about the flow of money and where it goes. I do not know how I could be more direct.

Let me also point out that Canada Mortgage and Housing, through the Department of Indian Affairs, funds $127 million a year for affordable housing on reserve. The hon. member should not tell me that we have abandoned that. Off reserve, particularly in urban areas, we have $680 million in signed agreements right across the country, and another $320 million. We are spending $1 billion and we are working with off reserve native communities as well as on reserve to build them good quality homes. It is all about partnerships, it is all about quality of life and it all leads to a greater Canada.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the hon. member can say he did not understand what I was saying. I thought it was pretty clear.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the member is right on when he talks about the problem with the clawback. I could not agree more.

The reason I spoke about housing in this file is that, first, it is my portfolio, but second, whether it is the gas tax, affordable housing agreements, child tax credits or whatever, it is all about a new partnership with our municipal partners. It is all about restructuring how we work together. It does not mean that we have to deal directly with the municipalities. We recognize that we have a Constitution and a responsibility to deal with our provincial partners and our territories. We understand that.

But it means that if we set aside money out of the gas tax that is supposed to go to the municipal treasury, we want to make sure it goes there and does not get clawed back in some other form by the provincial government. That is all. Those agreements have to be put in place to ensure that it happens.

The best way to do that is to get the provincial governments to be partners in all of this and to have them sign on. I understand the problems that have happened in Nova Scotia. I met with the minister, who is now the reappointed minister there, and we are working together, I can tell members, to try to make things happen.

On the issue of rural Canada, let me stress this. I also represent Canada Post. There has been a lot of noise about closing rural post offices. Let me assure the House right now, on the record, that there is no intention by this administration to close rural post offices. That should be made absolutely clear and members can take that to the bank.

Let me say that we will not ignore rural Canada. While only 20% of our population lives in rural communities, that part of our population is a vital part of the character, the soul and the quality of this country and we are committed to working with them as partners as well.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

I guess I struck a nerve, Mr. Speaker. I am not surprised, but I have to say that I do not know if this gentleman was in the room when I spoke or whether he was in some cloud.

Did I not say that the best province in the country to work with in affordable housing is Alberta? Did I not say that we are building houses with the cooperation of the provincial governments and the municipalities in every province except Ontario? That is my complaint. It is my home province that is not doing the job. I do not know what that was all about. What is he smoking over there? We have a terrific relationship with most of the provincial governments in this country and we will continue to have.

Those guys cannot take yes for an answer. We have said we are going to support the motion. What is their problem? We agree with it. We think it makes sense. The government believes in it.

But let me tell members that we have done a lot of other things that nobody gives us credit for and nobody on that side of the House recognizes. It is time that more of us talked about the positive things the government has been doing in signing partnership agreements right across this land. We are not ignoring the provinces. We are working with them in tripartite agreements with our municipalities to make this country better.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Well, shame on the member. This is nothing but pure bald-faced political one-upmanship on the part of the Canadian Alliance because it has not got a clue about what these policies will do or what they mean.

Let me tell the House that this is the same party that wants to build a firewall around Alberta. We remember that statement. We remember that desire. I have heard members on the opposite side stand up and say the reason they put this motion is that they want to give this money to the provinces.

I thought we were talking about empowering our municipalities. I thought we were talking about new ways, a new deal for cities, because 80% of the people in this country happen to live in cities.

If it is for cities, then members should read Hansard . Why do members opposite stand up and say we need to find more ways to flow money to the provincial governments?

I want to admit one thing to the Canadian Alliance. One of the experiences I have enjoyed in the past six months has been working with provincial and municipal governments in the area of affordable housing. It might come as a surprise that one of the best provinces in Canada, under the terms of the federal-provincial agreement, is Alberta.

A lot of people would be surprised to hear that because at six o'clock at night on the news they see Premier Klein standing up and bashing Ottawa or taking shots at the Prime Minister or playing golf with Mike Harris or whatever. Yet in fact, the minister of housing, Stan Woloshyn, and I have had several excellent meetings. Alberta has actually built 420 affordable housing units. This is not a huge number. However, we must remember we are only talking three million people.

Alberta is building supportive housing and doing partnerships with municipalities. This summer I was in Red Deer with the minister. We opened a supportive housing project in Red Deer with the cooperation of the provincial government, the federal government, the municipality and the private sector. It is leading edge stuff that is coming out of the Province of Alberta.

What we hear in the House is members standing up and not knowing about any of that. They would not be aware that this minister and the minister of housing in Alberta are working extremely well together. They would only want to stand up and get in front of the parade so they can pretend they are actually leading the issue.

What this issue is really about, and the reason that the government and frankly the new regime when it comes in will support, is new partnerships. We must recognize that our municipalities are the economic engines of this country and they need our support.

The reason municipalities need our support would run contrary to what the Canadian Alliance would do in giving more power to the provinces. The provinces, and I talk now not of Alberta but of my own Province of Ontario--this being an election day and an exciting day in the Province of Ontario--as an example. It has downloaded to the municipalities and put incredible pressure on not just the municipalities, but on hospitals and the education system.

The provincial government cancelled the affordable housing program that was in place the minute that Mike Harris took over the premier's office in 1995. The province has downloaded the responsibility. It has downloaded all of the heavy lifting to the municipalities in the province.

Here is the problem. We may have a new government in Ontario today. Some of us are hoping for that to happen. However, whether we do or not, if we were to give a piece of the federal excise tax on gasoline directly to municipalities, not to the provinces as I am hearing members over there say, the provincial government of any particular political stripe could figure out how much money that is and claw it back in some fashion. We have seen that in program after program in the Province of Ontario. It is unacceptable.

There is no point in just shuffling the deckchairs. We have to make sure that whatever amount is finally worked out and committed to be transferred to the municipalities, that it goes to them for their programs that they know how to run and on which they can decide; that it is matched by a like contribution from the provincial governments and the territories; and that it is not clawed back in some other fashion, like the child tax credit, in my view.

All of the things this government has done, which the opposition of course dutifully fails to recognize, support Canadians, 80% of whom live in cities. Therefore, we could say that it supports cities. The people who get the child tax credit live in our cities. It is frankly one of the greatest accomplishments of the former minister of finance. Yet we hear people say we have not done anything.

The annual assistance rates for children in low income families were increased through the Canada child tax benefit by $10 billion by the year 2007. This represents an increase of about 100% since 1996 and will have risen to $3,243 per year for the first child, $3,016 for the second child, and $3,020 for each additional child. Is that important to cities?

My mayor, Mayor McCallion, would say that we have a lot of young families. We have our share of the burden of people living in poverty and people struggling to get ahead. Is it important to Mayor McCallion? Is it important to Mayor Fennell? Is it important to Mayor Lastman or the next mayor of Toronto? Is it important to the mayor in St. John's, Newfoundland? Is it important to Mayor Kelly? Of course it is important to all of them that their families get this kind of assistance.

Why members opposite cannot see that as direct assistance by the federal government to the people who live in the municipalities is beyond me. At the end of the day we will not be focusing on helping corporate municipal governments. We are interested in helping the people in those municipalities. We know through partnerships with the municipalities that we can achieve that.

For example, we signed an affordable housing agreement with the province of Manitoba. The federal government would provide Manitoba with $12.5 million and Manitoba would match that $12.5 million to create a housing fund of $25 million to build homes in that province. The mayor of the city of Winnipeg came to the table in the one and only tripartite agreement we have in this country. Mayor Murray signed an additional agreement with Manitoba and with us to add $17.5 million of municipal money into the affordable housing package. That is $42 million to build affordable housing.

The city of Winnipeg needs it desperately. It has a serious shortage of housing for urban aboriginals. It has a serious shortage of housing for the working poor. I wish I could take that template from Manitoba and Winnipeg and do it in every municipality across the country. That would be my goal, to use that template as the example of how we can work in partnership with our municipal partners.

We talk about infrastructure. What have we done there? I hear all these stories about how roads are falling apart and that we have not put money into them. Municipalities know that is not true. Is it enough? No, it is never enough. We all know that.

In reality we have committed $10 billion to infrastructure that has been tripled by partnerships with provincial governments and municipalities to generate $30 million in infrastructure programs across this country. If there is one area that I think we need to look at in the infrastructure file however, it is separating out what I call core infrastructure from cultural infrastructure and community infrastructure.

What I mean by that is many of our cities and communities have problems with water and sewers. The pipes are old. In some sections in the city of Toronto they were actually twinning the storm sewers and the sanitary sewers and it was going right into the Don River and into the lake. That is not acceptable in today's environment.

Our infrastructure programs need to focus on core infrastructure, which is sewers, water and roads. Then on the other hand we can deal with the community infrastructure programs for things like a living arts centre, a community centre, or an arena. These things cannot be ignored. We will do that in partnership with our municipalities and provinces.

One of the other really interesting issues is that the Canadian Alliance tries to generate this feeling that somehow we are ignoring the municipalities and at the same time it wants to give all the power and concentrate all the power at the provincial level. We know that is its agenda. We know that it is strictly a regional rump, if you will. It won a couple of seats in Ontario. We know based on the good sense of the people of Ontario that they will not be sending more Canadian Alliance members.

We do not know about the partnership that is on again, off again. I think the parties are in marriage counselling right now to see whether or not they can get together. One of my colleagues says that there are bunk beds over at Stornoway. But the reality is, there can only be one official opposition.

I just received some new information on Manitoba. It is actually $25 million. I correct myself. It is $25 million federally, $25 million provincially and then the city added $17.5 million. So it is a much bigger pot but the principle is the same. It is a tripartite agreement among all three levels of government. Frankly, that is the direction we need to go in.

The issue of gas tax is the one that is so visible to people. They see the pie chart at the pumps. In my view, if we can do this, if we can have an agreement between the province and the municipality, there has to be transparency. The municipalities should have a political resolution put on the books saying that they wish to collect this gas tax and we should change the pie chart so that people know where the tax money is going.

One of the criticisms that I think is legitimate of all governments in the country is that we tend to put everything into a central pot, a black hole, and then we order our business and we disburse it. Targeting things like a portion of the gas tax is an idea whose time has arrived. It is an idea where the public needs to know that its mayor and council are in fact getting a certain percentage on that pie chart on the gas pump and that the province and the federal government are kicking in a piece. It is all about transparency and understanding where the money is coming from and where the money is going. That is a critical part of it.

It is a much bigger issue than that in terms of the relationship with municipalities. I like to use the example around housing. Affordable housing is an issue that only reaches the front page or the front mindset of people when there is an eviction of squatters, or when there is a demonstration by an anti-poverty group or something like that demanding affordable housing. All of a sudden the media picks it up and all of the politicians and everybody start talking about it. We need to talk about this with our municipalities in true partnership without the stress of those kinds of demonstrations being what drive the issue.

There are 1.8 million people living in core need. This is a disgrace and it is something that I frankly intend to do everything I can to fix. I hope all members would agree with this. In Canada 1.8 million people are living in core need. Core need means that they are paying more than 30% of their gross income for the roof over their heads. They have a home. In Saint John, New Brunswick for example the vacancy rate is 5% and people might ask what the problem is, that there should be lots of supply. Once that is taken out of the equation, the number of homes that are literally unliveable, where the roof is leaking, where insulation does not exist and it is freezing in the winter and people should not be living there, the vacancy rate drops down below 2%.

We have a problem but just because we have somebody under a roof does not mean we have solved it. It has to be decent quality housing, not third world standards like we are seeing in some parts of the country and it has to be affordable.

If a single mom is paying 50% or 60% of her gross income to put a roof over the heads of her and her two kids, that means she has 40% or 50% of her gross pay, maybe as low as 30% of her net pay, left to buy food, clothing and pay for transportation to get to work. It is impossible. I would defy anybody in this place to live with numbers like that. It cannot happen.

Can we solve it alone? No, absolutely not, but the federal government is back in the housing business and we have entered into partnerships with municipalities. It is my hope that if we find new ways to create a new deal for the municipal sector the municipalities across the country will do what Mayor Murray in the city of Winnipeg has done. They will put their money on the table to help build affordable housing.

It all begins at home. If we could elevate in the priority of people's minds the issue of affordable quality housing to the same level as health and education, I think we would start to achieve something. I think it should be there because good health begins at home.

Think about growing up as a child. I would suspect most of us in this place had an address, had a home, hopefully had a mom and a dad, and siblings. Fifty per cent of the people who live in shelters in the city of Calgary actually have jobs. They go to work every day and they come home at night and sleep at the YWCA or at a homeless shelter. That is deplorable. We have to stop that. We have to put in place programs that will help those people.

Some of those people actually have children. They go out of the shelter in the morning, they send their children to school, they go to work at minimum wage jobs and they meet their children back at the shelter. Think of the impact on those children when the other kids at school ask them where they live. Does anyone think that those children want to say that they live at the Y? I can guarantee that they do not want to say that. They are embarrassed. Those children love their moms, but they are embarrassed, ashamed.

Imagine the difference, the uplifting feeling and sense of security if, when a child is asked where he lives, he can say, “I live at 21 Birchview”, which is where I grew up in Toronto. Imagine that feeling. There are kids in shelters in this country who move 12 times a year. They have no idea what a home is.

Do we want to have a new partnership with the cities? We need the provinces to commit to this full bore. We have agreements signed with provincial governments. They are supposed to match the money that we have provided for affordable housing. Most of them are, with the exception of Ontario again, matching it and building it.

There have been 1,700 homes built in British Columbia in cooperation with the city of Victoria, the city of Vancouver, the city of Chilliwack, and the list goes on. There have been 420 built in Alberta, with the great cooperation of the city of Calgary, the city of Edmonton, the city of Red Deer and the provincial government. In Saskatchewan there are 200 units underway.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, there are 117 underway. There are many more to come because of the leadership of the head of that municipal government.

In Quebec there are over 1,500. What Quebec did is it got $160 million from us and in partnerships with the municipalities they matched it, $120 million from the province and $40 million from the municipalities. They are building 1,500 units as we speak and are committed to 65.

Nova Scotia is off the ramp. It is going ahead with programs. We are looking at home ownership for the working poor as a pilot project. New Brunswick is on the way. P.E.I. broke ground for seven new homes just last month in Charlottetown in cooperation with the municipality.

Do not tell me the government is not doing it, because I know differently. The government believes in cities and municipalities. More important, we believe in Canadians. We will work with them to build affordable housing and provide fair, just taxation for our municipal partners and our provincial partners to continue building this great country.

Supply October 2nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to the motion.

The Canadian public must look at the motion and wonder why all these members are fighting if they agree on all of this stuff.

It is an interesting problem. Let me take the suspense, about how the government would vote, away from the previous speaker who said he is anxiously awaiting the results of the vote. The government supports the motion.

However, what is interesting about this is that this is clearly a case of Canadian Alliance members seeing where the parade is going, watching it go right by them, and elbowing out in front so that they can pretend to Canadians that they are actually leading this. This is such utter nonsense.

Canada Post September 29th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, all members and all Canadians will recall the on-again, off-again threat of a postal strike this summer. I am pleased to tell the House that Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have just announced the ratification of two collective agreements. This includes a four year contract for urban postal workers and a separate eight year contract for rural and suburban mail carriers, who will become employees of Canada Post.

I am sure all members will join me in congratulating the leadership of the union and the corporation for this historic agreement. Canadians can now be assured of four more years of uninterrupted postal service as well as other things.

Housing September 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, over the summer I had the opportunity to meet with housing ministers from provinces across Canada, mayors and other stakeholders, to discuss their progress.

We have committed $1 billion in two tranches of money, money that should be matched by the provincial governments to create 40,000 new affordable homes.

I am pleased to tell the member and all members in the House that it is working across the country just about everywhere. It is working in the west, in the east and in the north where homes are being built and planned as we speak. However it is not working in Ontario and, hopefully, that will change very soon.

Canada Post September 19th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it would be interesting if the government were to suggest that Canada Post should not look for ways to improve mail delivery in rural Canada. I do not think the people in rural Canada would frankly expect us to do that.

It is not about fine print, as the member said. It clearly is about looking at the service delivery that is serving Canadians in rural Canada, recognizing the importance of mail delivery and all services in rural Canada and living up to the commitment that the government has made.